Norma (wearing a blue sei flower) and husband Geoff Black (second from right) with members of the Mangawhai pool club.
Billiards is another of those sports that women weren’t welcome to play for many years but is now attracting more female interest.
Norma Black-Pita Leota Toala (55) was born and raised in Samoa and hails from the villages of Gatavai, Fa’ato’ia, Manono, Moata’a, Vaisala, Falelatai, and Auala in Samoa.
She lives in Kaiwaka, Northland with her husband Geoffrey Black, who is of Canadian descent.
Black-Pita Leota Toala will be the first Samoan woman to enter the Oceania Championships.
The Oceania Championships return after a Covid-19-mandated hiatus; this will be the largest prize fund in Australasian pool history.
She says that when she was a child growing up in Samoa, girls were never allowed to be in billiards room - it was always men who went to pubs or clubs.
Watching the boys play
“I would walk past the pool table slots at the markets in town and turn my back to look from the corner of my eye so that my cousins and the males would see me,” Black-Pita Leota Toala says.
The Oceania Pocket Billiards Association (OPBA) is the host of the 2023 Oceania Men’s and Women’s 10 Ball Championships.
By night, Black-Pita Leota Toala is the director of her cleaning company called Norma Jeans Cleaning World, and by day she is in the pubs honing her pool table skills.
Although she wishes she could play all day as a full-time job, she says it does not help put bread on the table.
“It was not an easy road for me; I was only able to hold a cue once I moved to New Zealand.
A Tama’ita’i Samoa (Samoan woman’s) traditional role is to maintain the home and take care of the children, parents and aiga (family) while men are the decision-makers.
Busy caring for elders
“I had to uphold and look after my grandparents, which meant daily chores, and being out gathering crops from the land so they could eat and survive, so I put my life on hold.”
Having her own family and having relocated to New Zealand, the athlete decided in 2010 to make her dream a reality.
Thirteen years later Black-Pita Leota Toala has won many medals playing against men from different cultures and backgrounds in particular at 10 ball.
“10-ball is similar to 9-ball but object balls numbered 1 through 10 are used in this game.
“The goal of 10-ball is to be the last player to sink the 10 ball after all of the other balls have been pocketed.”
Many billiard games have been played since the 15th century. But straight pool and other pool games are less popular than 9-ball and 10-ball.
Because it is harder than traditional pool, this modern version has slowly gained popularity.
In 10-ball, players must call the pocket before making their next ball after the break.
Overall, 10-ball requires more skill and strategy than 9-ball.
“I’m usually either the only female, sometimes two others, but it doesn’t phase me, because I’m in my zone then.”
“It’s always important to shut everything out when you’re playing; that’s how I get through my games.”
The 2023 Predator WPA Oceania Women’s 10 Ball Championship will take place from Friday, 1 December to Sunday, 3 December.
The field has been capped at 32 players, with an allowance of no more than 10 spots.
According to Black-Pita Leota Toala, gender discrimination is fading, and women can now compete in intense and entertaining billiard matches.
“I encourage the younger generation willing to play professionally to give it a go; it can take you places, she says. “It’s not just a game; it involves concentration, math, and angles.”