Telesia’s Samoan family are crazy about kilikiti, a Pacific Island version of cricket. Now she’s hooked too, and wants to carry on the legacy of a team that’s been together for 30 years.
Telesia Tomafua (Sia to those who know her) is 16 years old, and after a lifetime of sitting on the sidelines of her family’s kilikiti games in Auckland, finally decided to pick up the bat and have a go herself.
When did your relationship with kilikiti begin?
I grew up around kilikiti. I was practically born into it. It’s a family sport for us. Mum, Dad and my sister have played it for as long as I can remember. But I always just sat on the sidelines and watched. The only time I’d ever play was when my mum forced me to fill in if we were short of players, mostly with Catholic church games.
Did you enjoy it when you had to fill in?
Not really – in fact I often tried to hide from my mum so I wouldn’t be there to do it. I had very little knowledge of the game. The only thing that I maybe knew was that hitting the ball was a good sign! I was worried that I’d let the team down and always anxious that I’d mess up. I didn’t want to drop the ball if I tried to catch it because I knew how much this game meant to everyone. So if I ever made a mistake, I’d beat myself up for it and tell everyone that I never wanted to play again. I actually think I was covering up the fact that deep down, I really wanted to learn how to play and how to understand how the game works. I loved seeing my mum, my dad and my sister play – and the passion they have for kilikiti. I always wondered how it would be to feel that way too.
So what changed your mind?
A team was going to the Fetuilelagi competition in Australia and I was going along to watch for support. One of the girls had a few injuries and I was forced to fill in again. But this was different, as there was less pressure and I had so much more time to learn and grow and adapt into the game – it was quite different from when I filled in for our church games. For years my mum and my aunties always said that “kilikiti is more than just a game”. I never really understood what they meant, but when I learned how to play with them – instead of being scared – I started to understand. It’s part of our culture and there are lots of ages and generations involved and it brings the community together too. My mum and the other pillars of our team are always going on about the future of our team and I realise it’s also about carrying on their legacy with my sisters and cousins and what they’ve taught us.
How long have your mum’s team been playing?
Their team has been together for 30 years!
How do you think kilikiti benefits your physical and mental health?
I think it must be good for your physical health when I watch the older members of our team still getting out there and playing. It keeps you active. And I think it’s good for your mental health too – it’s really social and we all have a special connection and trust within our team.
Are you still worried about making mistakes?
When you have that special connection, you’re able to bounce back if you make mistakes on the field with their support. You can breathe in and tell yourself that there are many more opportunities to prove that you’re better than that mistake. That can be useful in life. And when we won the Fetuilelagi comp, it was such a good feeling.
If someone was thinking about taking up kilikiti, what would you say to them?
I’d say give it a try. Whether you fall in love with it or not, you’ll understand what everyone means when they say that it is more than just a game. And if you do love it, it’s a really fun way to get exercise and be consistent with it.