Takuvaine Warriors will join Aitutaki Sharks on the sideline after pulling out of the 2020 Raro Cars Rugby League competition.
At the annual general meeting held last week, Takuvaine executives told Cook Islands Rugby League Association that they do not have enough players to field a team in this year’s domestic competition.
The Sharks earlier pulled out after their executives, who subsequently resigned, acknowledged they were not in a position to front up with a team in the upcoming season.
Vasie Ngatoko-Poila, the president of Takuvaine-Tutakimoa Sports and Cultural Association, said a number of factors led to their decision to withdraw the team.
“There are a number of compounding reasons and lack of players is one of them. The plan is to take a break and revive the sport, not only league but other sporting code in the community,” Ngatoko-Poila said.
“There is still much interest in our community in any sports code, be it soccer, netball, rugby league or union but at this point in time, we would like to get together to strategise the progress and development of sports in our community.”
Takuvaine Warriors were demoted to the premier reserve grade last year after a poor start to their 2019 season where they lost all their opening round matches by big margins.
Cook Islands Rugby League then said the decision to demote the team was based on the concerns raised on the safety of their young players. Takuvaine fielded junior grade players to make up the numbers on game day.
But Cook Islands Rugby League competition coordinator Tai Nelio said they gave Takuvaine another opportunity this year to put together a formidable team.
“We included them in the initial draws allowing them more time to get their players together but at the AGM last week, Takuvaine executives told us that they can’t field a team,” Nelio said.
“Both the teams – Aitutaki and Takuvaine – will be missed in this year’s competition. We will definitely miss the flair the Sharks bring to the competition. They also draw good crowd at their games.
“But we understand their situation and we hope they use this year to build their teams and return stronger in 2021.”
Last week, the national rugby league body confirmed Aitutaki Sharks will miss the national club competition for the very first time in 13 years.
Cook Islands Rugby League president Charles Carlson met with the Aitutaki Sports Federation and the club’s former executives in Aitutaki last 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,” Carlson earlier said.
“I can understand their frustrations so it’s a matter of stepping back, regrouping and get it back on track.”
Cook Islands Rugby League has requested Aitutaki Sharks 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.
“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 2020 league competition, which kicks off this Saturday, will feature defending champions Ngatangiia-Matavera Sea Eagles, Tupapa Panthers, Avatiu Eels, Arorangi Bears and Titikaveka Bulldogs.
Former champions Panthers will take on the Bulldogs at Victoria Park while the Bears will host the Eels at Raemaru Park. The Sea Eagles are on a bye in the opening round.