Tag queen Moanekah Vaai: ‘Just one of the boys’
It’s not a usual thing to see a girl in an all boys sports team, let alone represent a country. But the normality became apparent when 15-year-old SUGA Moanekah Va’ai made a ground breaking achievement: representing Samoa in the Under 18’s mens team for the Tag Pacific Cup in Auckland last weekend.
Moanekah, whose parents are from Satuiatua & Vaisala was named by her coach Tillam Kapsin who believed she had the talent to be in his under 18’s mens team.
Having played both tag and touch, Moanekah has noticed the speed of the games are quite different in tag yet the skills are similar. The adjustment to the speed of tag was not difficult for her and she sees it as an advantage for her own game in all sporting codes.
“The coach of the boys team happened to watch most of my sixteen’s mixed training and through the last week of trainings he approached me to come and play on the week of the tournament,” she says.
To be up with the same physicality and mental strength at such a young age is an achievement in itself but the gifted young athlete has settled in with ease .
“They always had my back on and off the field. It was fast and the skill level for the boys grade was high but my coach told us to trust each other on the field.”
Throughout Va’ai’s progress in her sporting codes, she is known for her very relaxed and calm manner when it comes to high-pressured matches. Her mother, Vaimoana Va’ai says it could be because Moanekah is surrounded by a large support group.
“All of the skills she has learnt and the support is from her family,” says Vaimoana. “We encourage her to excel and push herself in sports and in school but more so for her to take hold of the opportunities that are presented to her.
It was a privilege to have my daughter represent Samoa. Samoa Tag have an amazing committee and they were the founders of this Pacific Cup tournament which is very unique and the only one of its kind in the World.”
Tag Football is a sport progressing in popularity internationally, bringing many athletes together on a world stage at tournaments such as the Pacific and Oceania cups. The New Zealand Nationals, run by NZTFI were also held in Auckland recently.
-Story by Savannah Tafau-Levy
You can view all photos from the recent Pacific Cup tournament at the Samoa Tag Sports Facebook Page.