Those vol­ley­ball golden days in Porirua

Kapi-Mana News - - CONVERSATIONS - KRIS DANDO

Alex Ai­olupotea Pei got the shock of his life last week when a mem­ber of his fam­ily sent him a Kapi-Mana News photo from 1996.

The for­mer Porirua res­i­dent, who lives in Queens­land, was a reg­u­lar vol­ley­ball player in his younger days.

He said the sport had a huge fol­low­ing in Porirua 20 years ago, and be­lieved it still did to­day.

Along with turn­ing out for the Phoenix club, Pei was part of a Porirua Sev­enth-Day Ad­ven­tist Church vol­ley­ball side that cleaned up at the church’s na­tion­als in 1996 and 1997.

It was a photo of that 1996 team, con­tain­ing Pei, that we put on our Face­book page last week.

We had no names or con­text for the photo, but sev­eral peo­ple came to the res­cue, iden­ti­fied the team and gave us Pei’s con­tact de­tails in Aus­tralia.

‘‘When I was sent the photo, I was shocked,’’ Pei said. ‘‘I was like, ‘What the heck! Who are those young guys?’ We were look­ing good back then. We’re a bit older now.’’

The photo was taken be­fore the team left for the Sev­enth-Day Ad­ven­tist Church vol­ley­ball na­tion­als over Labour Week­end in 1996 in Palmer­ston North.

It was the first year such a tour­na­ment was held, Pei said.

He said the com­pe­ti­tion was strong in the A grade, but the team knew each other well, had all played to a high level – with team mem­ber Vai a Samoan rep­re­sen­ta­tive – and their skill and team-work counted in the end.

Pei said there were sev­eral grades at the tour­na­ment and it was a very so­cial oc­ca­sion.

‘‘You had so many peo­ple com­ing from Auck­land, Christchurch, Welling­ton – all over New Zealand – in buses and vans. The games were fierce, but

FLASH­BACK ‘‘The games were fierce, but it was also a chance to see fam­ily and catch up with old friends.’’

it was also a chance to see fam­ily and catch up with old friends. It was a great time for ev­ery­one and as far as I know this [vol­ley­ball com­pe­ti­tion] is still run­ning and still grow­ing.’’

Pei’s team re-formed in 1997 and de­fended their ti­tle.

Grow­ing up in Porirua, vol­ley­ball, along with other tra­di­tional sports like rugby, was in­cred­i­bly pop­u­lar among church groups and Pa­cific Is­land peo­ple, Pei said.

‘‘Ev­ery chance we got we were play­ing, whether it was at Windley School or up at the [Wai­tan­girua] mall. It was fun and a way to bring peo­ple to­gether. We came home from work and then we’d go play.’’

Pei said the 1996 team mem­bers stay in oc­ca­sional touch, but half of them are liv­ing in Aus­tralia now.

‘‘We’re all a bit big­ger and a bit older than we were in that photo. We get to­gether now and again and we’re all P Town boys, so we have that con­nec­tion.’’

The 1996 Porirua Sev­enth-Day Ad­ven­tist Church vol­ley­ball side was, back row, from left, Sonny Jack­son, Vai Ai­olupotea Pei and Alex Ai­olupotea Pei. Front row, from left, Ina Siaosi, Si­moo Faleafaga and Tom Kuresa.

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