Photo credit: Veranoa Hetet @whaeavee - L-R: Mārire ‘Ma’ Barnett, Rongomai ‘Sis’ Luke-Royal, Erenora ‘Ellie’ Hetet-Hauwaho, Kimiora ‘Kimi’ Tangianau
Te Aroha Softball is home to White Sox stalwart Lara Andrews, and earlier this year their premier women’s team added a seventh national inter-club title to their trophy cabinet.
The Waiwhetū-based club’s dominance looks set to continue with a new generation of softball standouts.
Marire Barnett, Rongomai Luke-Royal, Erenora Hetet-Hauwaho and Kimihia Tangianau were recently named to the emerging White Sox squad which will tour Canada in July.
The girls are all 15-16 years old, and everyone knows them as the ‘grovey girls’ because they’ve all been raised on and around Puketapu Grove which surrounds the iconic Waiwhetū Marae.
That means there’s no excuses for the girls to miss practice at Te Whiti Park across the road, especially when their coach for the last three seasons, Melisa Tupuivao, also lives nearby.
Tupuivao was a White Sox player for 20 years, and says the grovey girls have the talent and support to ‘go all the way’.
“They’re willing to do the extra work, extra training on and off the diamond, and a big thing for them [is] they’ve got the support of their whānau,” Tupuivao says.
It’s that Waiwhetū whānau factor that gives the grovies that special edge. As softball māmā Veranoa Hetet explains, “It’s something that’s part of this wonderful sports club, Te Aroha. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a wonderful village to raise these sports people”.
Puketapu Grove commemorates Te Āti Awa leader Ihaia Purotu Puketapu, who also happens to be a direct tipuna to three of the grovey girls. No doubt he’d be proud of the young women the community he created is producing.