Vice President William Taripo says the fantastic turnout showed the popularity and support for the older men who continue to be involved in the sport.
“It’s about getting off the couch, catching up, having a run and keeping fit. If you are 35 years and older and have retired from rugby league competitions on the island, come along join us,” said Taripo.
Since 2016, the Turtles have participated in the Australian Masters League tournament, but this year was different.
The team had just arrived in Auckland after their competition and were warned to catch the next flight home before the borders closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We were lucky, we were just in time to make the flight home.”
The team also cancelled the April Fiesta league event due to the virus threat. However, they are looking forward to be included in the annual rugby league tournament next year.
The Turtles Rugby League Masters was initiated in 2009 when a make shift team of former rugby union and league players participated in the inaugural World Rugby League Master’s Tournament in Auckland, New Zealand.
The event proved popular and the following year the Cook Islands Rugby League Masters Association Incorporated was registered.
In February 2011 a new executive was elected: president Lucky Matapuku, vice president Henry Tupa, secretary Maria Tuoro, treasurer Johnny Hosking, commissioner Tony Macquarie and a ‘speaker of the house’ Simiona “I’m not asking” Teiotu.
The name Turtles was added to the team in September 2011 and promoted overseas at the first Masters League International Tournament in the Gold Coast, Australia under the management of Tony Macquarie.
In 2013, the organisation grew with the addition of new players, namely the ‘Great’ Bobby Hunter, Sonny Shepherd and Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown.
The following year, the team returned to the Gold Coast to participate in the tournament. Mann and Sisi Short’s dance troupe also accompanied the group to promote our culture.
The Turtles had a busy year in 2016. In March they took part in the Australian Master’s League Movement and played their first game at Runaway Bay in the Gold Coast. They have attended the event every year after.
An acknowledgement of members was also announced on the evening including the late Navy Epati, ex-Kiwi rep John Whittaker, Taua Benioni, Jeff Zekaria, Sonny Pureau, Mau Raina John Arbuthnott, Johnny Hosking and others.
The team have training sessions once a week at Nukupure Park at in Muri.
William Taripo said: “Our slogan motto is, slow and steady, we encourage men to keep fit and join us.”