The National, Tuesday October 22nd, 2013
By KYMLIE KARANI
LUA Mavara-Rikis has made the Pepes final 12-member team for the Six Nations Cup but as a defender.
The tournament will be from December 1-7 in Singapore.
Returning as a defender, the 31 year-old Rebels leader will be joining forces with veteran defender Kilala Owen and 16-year-old debutant Courtney Abel.
After a long break lasting more than eight months, the former top goal shooter has been given a new assignment but not one she is unfamilair with – Rikis started her career as a defender before being slotted into the shooting role, taking over from former representative Gamini Koroka in the 2007.
The final team were named yesterday following a two-day trial camp over the weekend at the Rita Flynn netball courts in Port Moresby.
Rikis, from Kalo and Gabagaba along the Magi Highway in the Central province, will now play along side sister Winnie Mavara, who was also named in the squad.
Rikis earned a reputation as one of PNG’s best shooters over a career that began in the mid 2000s.
She capped off her comeback to serious competition by being named best goal shooter at the recent 2013 Digicel National Championships.
Rikis’ inclusion complements a team that has both experience and the exuberance of youth in the likes of 15-year-old Jephat Tulapi, Abel and Kimberly Rawali, who will be debuting with the senior Pepes team.
Pepes coach and national selector Iamo Launa told The National yesterday that Rikis’ inclusion was a huge boost for the side.
“Lua is such a good player and with her height advantage in the defending circle, she is certainly a bonus for the team,” Iamo said.
Iamo said that only five players from the Pacific Netball Series in June were retained while the others did not make the cut due to their fitness levels and based on their performance during the trials over the weekend.
“The three young girls, Courtney, Jephat and Kimberly stood out during the trials.
“Their combinations with the other more experienced players will be exciting to watch,” Iamo said.
Eighteen-year-old goal keeper Margaret Eka missed out on the final 12 but is listed as a non-travelling reserve.
Iamo said despite losing such a strong player, selections were based on fitness levels and had to be fair on all players. The team resumes training tomorrow.
The Pepes: Shooters – Tiata Baldwin, Maleta Roberts (Australia), Jephat Tulapi (Lagatoi), Rayleen Andrew (POM); Midcourt – Winnie Mavara, Kimberly Rawali, Marinama Maha (POM), Nerrie Adula (Lae); Defenders – Kilala Owen, Susan Wellington, Lua Rikis (POM), Courtney Abel (Australia/Alotau). Non-travelling reserves: Albertine Ehari, Richanda Kassman (POM), Margaret Eka (POM), Annie Iamo (coach), Monalisa Leka (assistant coach).