There were girls and boys as young as 11 or 12 years old in the five teams who ran out onto Teimurimotia Park for the country’s first tag tournament.
Organiser Oswell Tunupopo was delighted with the “massive attendance”, and paid tribute to his wife and all the officials and sponsors who had backed the sport all the way, to make it happen.
“The girls were outstanding, with the numbers they brought to the teams,” he said. “A few did just come on the day which is what I was hoping for.”
The strong-turn-out has given him home that Cook Islands may be able to field a national team.
“Thanks to everyone else that took place, tag will still continue,” he said. “I’ll be looking at selecting a few teams to enter into comps across the world for tag.”
Tag rugby, or flag rugby, is a non-contact team game in which each player wears a belt that has two velcro tags attached to it, or shorts with velcro patches.
The mode of play is based on rugby league with many similarities to touch football, although tag rugby is often deemed as a closer simulation of the full contact codes of rugby than touch.
Attacking players attempt to dodge, evade and pass a rugby ball while defenders attempt to prevent them scoring by “tagging” – pulling a velcro attached tag from the ball carrier, rather than a full contact tackle.
There were two women named most valuable players: former Sharlene Atai, and young speedster Paeru Ngaroi. “All the girls all deserved it in our eyes,” Tunupopo said.
Among the men, the most valuable players were Jedrek Engu and Okirua Tomsyn – with a special mention for the youngest boy in the tournament, 11-year-old Tana Raina.
Player of the whole tournament was Tutavake Peter Tunupopo, who arrived from New Zealand a few weeks ago, to help bring tag to Rarotonga.
Tunupopo acknowledged rugby league officials Charles Carlson, Kayal Iro, Pomaire Pitman, longo Leuta, Loken Perenise, Poso Ngaroi, Charlee McLean, Jessica Mataroa, Jana Whitta.
And he thanked the sponsors: Tina and Co, Fave Designs, Cook Islands Rugby League, Lazyzshisha, the Sport and National Olympic Committee, lawyer Mark Short and Family Sounds.