After 13 years in the game, rugby league club Aitutaki Sharks will miss the national club competition for the very first time.
Cook Islands Rugby League President Charles Carlson met with the Aitutaki Sports Federation and the club’s former executives in Aitutaki this month to discuss their future.
“I commend the Sharks executives and their supporters for their passion and hard work to get their teams to Rarotonga without fail,” said Carlson.
“I can understand their frustrations so it’s a matter of stepping back, regrouping and get it back on track.”
The Sharks met last Friday for their annual general meeting to discuss the future of their team. The club’s executives all resigned, after acknowledging they were not in a position to front up with a team this year.
Cook Islands Rugby League has requested they elect a new executive and come up with a plan of action for 2021 or 2022, including the development of their junior grades on the island.
“We are not kicking the Sharks out,” said Carlson.
“We had other clubs in the past that struggled to survive but we continued to support and work with them to get them back on track.”
Carlson said the club’s non-qualification was a big loss to the island as the national league competition was its biggest event during their home games.
He hoped new executives and the club’s players would give it some “very serious thought” on how they might make it back into the competition.
“When you get to a stage where players are turning up to the airport to fly to Rarotonga for the game without training during the week, well it’s time to pull the plug until they are serious about the game and not waste their executives, the club’s and our time.”
The remaining Cook Islands Rugby League clubs will kick off their season on February 7.
Carlson paid tribute for, essentially, carrying the troubled Aitutaki side. “I would also like to acknowledge the Rarotonga-based club efforts in supporting the Sharks all these years so it has been a success having the Sharks in the comp.
“There has been a lot of criticism of the Rarotonga clubs but again you can understand their frustrations also, so it takes two to tango as they say.”
Rugby League held its Nines in Paradise tournament at the start of this month, which was won by the Arorangi Bears.
The Bears defeated Avatiu Eels 10-0 in January 4 final, to finish the two-day tournament undefeated – a result that Carlson said probably gave some indication of who to watch out for in 2020.
But he warned against writing off last year’s 13-a-side champions, Ngatangiia-Matavera. “While the Sea Eagles kept a low profile during the League Nines, coming last in the tournament, no doubt they will be back in full force to defend their Championship title.”