The Sharks were the first to pay the entry fee for the tournament and Cook Islands Rugby League acting competition co-ordinator Tai Nelio said the side was eager to test its mettle in the annual event at the BCI Stadium in Nikao.
Sharks will join eight other teams, who have confirmed their participation in the two-day tournament.
The six clubs from Rarotonga, which include two Ngatangiia Matavera Sea Eagles teams, defending champions Queensland Kukis and Miyaki All Stars (family team) are the other teams competing.
Nelio said the Auckland Kukis which showed interest in competing at the Nines pulled out of the tournament.
“We might have another team which will be confirmed next week. We have given TKV (Takuvaine) time until Monday to confirm their participation,” Nelio said.
“This will be the first time we will have nine teams competing and we are really excited about it.”
Nelio said the draws would be confirmed in the coming days after they receive confirmation from Takuvaine.
He said the matches over the two days would be held from 10am to 6pm.
Unfortunately, there won’t be any women’s competition this year as there were no entries received from the local or overseas teams.
Cook Islands Rugby League was hoping to use this tournament to build the profile of women’s rugby league in the country.
However, Nelio said they would have four junior teams (U13s) who will be competing at the 2019 Nines tournament.
He said the coming weeks would be a challenging one for the participating teams as countdown had started and there was limited time left for the tournament.
“The teams are all getting started with their preparation and they all mean business. It will be an exciting tournament.”
Participating teams have until December 28 to submit their team declaration forms.
Clubs are allowed to register 20 players in the teams with four officials. The competition rule that each team or club must have a maximum of four non-Cook Islanders still applied.
However one minor rule change the CIRL executives have made is that “all club players are a free agent in this Nines competition unless the player is contracted to another club”.
The Cook Islands Nines was established in January, 2016 for the purpose of assisting the clubs in their pre-season preparation before the proper season starts in February.
The tournament was also established to help with the development of the Nines game in the Cook Islands as part of their on-going preparation for future events such as the Pacific Games and other Nines competition in the region and internationally.
- Rashneel Kumar