The Tongan netball team, the Tala has burst its way into the top ten according to the latest Netball World Rankings.
The Friendly Islanders are now ranked ninth, higher than any other Pacific island team, after the team’s undefeated run during the 2022 Oceania Netball World Cup qualifiers catapulted them up the ladder.
This leaves Fiji at 15, the Cook Islands on 16, Samoa on 18, and Papua New Guinea at 36.
They finished the PacificAUS Series and the qualifiers undefeated and have set a new record for their nation in the sport.
Despite faced by recent criticisms that the team was made up of overseas-based players, the Tonga Netball Association has said all players were eligible to represent the nation.
International Netball Federation confirmed that this is the first time for a Tongan team to be ranked in the top ten, with their previous highest ranking at 19 in 2019.
In 2018 they were ranked 32 in a field of 41 ranked teams in the world.
They hit the top 20 a year later, but were removed from the world rankings because they did not play any test matches at all from 2019 to 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
Tonga coach Jaqua Pori-Makea-Simpson said this was the sole reason they were not ranked heading into the 2022 Oceania Netball World Cup qualifiers.
“We were not ranked because we did not play any test matches, but now since we compete, there should be some changes,” Pori-Makea-Simpson said.
Fans flooded social media as Tongans from all over the world congratulated their netballers on their achievement.
On Facebook, Neomai Fifita posted, “Wow that’s awesome Congratulations team Tala keep it up.”
Another Jen Hooper, “Amazing work Team Tonga Netball”, Helen Edwards posted, “Well done Tonga.”
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Tonga’s recent ascent has seen Scotland moving down one place to 10th, and Trinidad & Tobago and Northern Ireland also moving down one place to 11th and 12th.
The recent movement in the top ten order has rippled down the table with the Cook Islands and Samoa moving down two places.
However, the world rankings are currently led by Oceania giants Australia and trans-Tasman neighbour New Zealand in second place.