Historical First Father and Daughter to Represent Samoa in Cricket

"Aiolupotea Ofisa Tonu'u and his daughter Francesca-Eti Tonu'u have become the first father and daughter to represent Samoa in cricket, playing the exact same position of wicket keeper"

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25 May 2024 Global Samoans. Samoa’s Under 19 Women’s Cricket side wrote themselves into the history books last weekend when they won the East Asia Championships in Bali to qualify for the 2025 World Cup.

Amongst the gifted young players in Samoa’s National Cricket team was Francesca-Eti Tonu’u. Daughter of former All Black and Manu Samoa halfback, Aiolupotea Ofisa ‘Junior Tonuu‘ who made his international cricket debut for Samoa at the 2019 Pacific Games against PNG.

Aiolupotea Ofisa Tonuu and his daughter Francesca-Eti have become the first father-daughter to represent Samoa in cricket, and playing the exact same position of wicket keeper.

Son of the late Aiolupotea Namulauulu Ofisa and the late Aoefa Suemalo Tonu’u, Ofisa Tonu’u played 14 matches including five tests for Samoa before his two years as an All Black, from 1996 to 1998 and played eight matches for the All Blacks including five internationals.

Ofisa Tonu’u. (Photo Credit: David Rogers/Allsport).

Tonu’u played over 150 first class matches representing Wellington and Auckland at the provincial level and the Blues and Hurricanes in Super Rugby.

Talented in rugby and cricket while growing up, the father of seven had said before his international cricket debut in 2019 that his “heart was divided” when he was forced to pursue a career in rugby instead of cricket.

Despite having retired from first-class rugby in 2003, Tonu’u’s long-held dream of playing cricket for Samoa was realised when coach Tim Carter called him in for the 2019 Pacific Games following a rule change that made the dual international available for selection.

“The team had lacked a strong wicket keeper and Ofisa really strengthened the team by filling this essential role,” said Coach Tim Carter at the time.

Following in her father’s footsteps, Francesca-Eti started her own cricket career with a bang.

A student at Auckland’s Mount Albert Grammar School (MAGS) Tonu’u made the 1st XI team last year, in only her second year at high school.

MASSIVE Moment In the History of Cricket in SAMOA. Samoa Cricket U19 Women’s Team edged out Fiji & PNG to qualify for the 2025 ICC U19 Women’s World Cup in Malaysia and Thailand. Photo: ICC Cricket News.

After MAGS won First Runner Up in the Auckland Venus Cup, young Tonu’u was selected as a member of the Samoan Women’s Cricket team for it’s Pacific Cup campaign. An amazing achievement as a Year 11 student, to be selected for International Women’s Cricket.

Tonu’u family celebrating Francesca-Eti’s first prize in the NZ Sunday School Union Exams. L-R: Ofisa Junior, Alexander, Aiolupotea Ofisa Snr, Leticia, Francesca, Leilani, Alisa-Menorah, Tuioti Sheralynn. Salyn Tonu’u taking the photo)

Francesca-Eti is one of seven children of Aiolupotea Ofisa and his wife, Pastor Tuioti Sheralynn Tonu’u. All her three brothers have also followed their father’s club rugby footsteps.

Older brothers Salyn and Ofisa Junior together with younger brother Alexander, are regular players for the Auckland’s Ponsonby Rugby Club teams.

Francesca-Eti’s three brothers have all followed their father’s footsteps as Ponsonby Rugby Club members.

Francesca’s mother, Pastor Sheralynn Tonuu, said she and her family, church and community supporters “were in tears” at last week’s world cup qualifying win.

As they all watched Francesca and the team play in Bali, from NZ, they were aware that Samoa were strong underdogs.

“We knew that the favourites were either PNG, Fiji or Indonesia.”

So they focused their support on their strong faith in God.

“That was really, a ‘Glory to God’ situation, and that seems to be the main message from this miraculous result.”

In line with her Christian faith, Francesca recently topped the Sunday School Union exams, coming first across New Zealand.

Francesca’s other main support group are members of the family’s humble Samoan-speaking church, West Harbour Congregational Missionary Church, pastored by Francesca’s grandparents, Reverend Alesana and Eti McCarthy.

Francesca-Eti with her grandparents, Reverend Alesana and Eti McCarthy.

Francesca’s family are extremely grateful to the Samoa Circket Association, the Coaches and Management for their selection of Francesca to represent Samoa.

“We are so proud that Francesca is part of such a well-managed and well-led Samoan cricket team…”

It is early days, but the future looks bright for the young Francesca-Eti, Pule Alofa Le Alii!