This new programme involves a fast-paced adaptation of the 7s game, aimed not only at encouraging more of our young people to become actively engaged in sports on a regular basis, but also at promoting the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and diet.
A short opening ceremony was opened by CIRU president Sean Smith. New Zealand High Commissioner Peter Marshall, and health secretary Aumea Herman both praised the New Zealand government’s initiative to inject $4 million over the next four years into the Pacific to help decrease the incidence of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in Pacific countries.
NCDs have been recognised by a World Health Organisation (2014) report as the leading cause of death in most countries in the Pacific and a further report in 2015 predicted that numbers have the potential to rise in the coming decades if we don't change our lifestyle and eating habits.
Encouraging our young people to participate in the PSP programme is in hopeful anticipation of a reversal of current NCD statistics and producing more healthy and active contributors to the economy of the Cook Islands. This positive outlook for the future was enough to draw prime minister Henry Puna to lend enthusiastic support to the launch of the initiative.
The PSP team was led by PSP project manager Tim Gilkison, accompanied by four New Zealand rugby representatives - two coaches, Wayne Marsters (son of local boxing coach, Tom Marsters) and Anna Darling, and two Pacific Sporting Partnership Ambassadors - Cook Islanders, Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate and Toka Natua, who have both represented New Zealand in Women's Rugby and the Cook Islands in Women's Rugby League.
Following demonstration games in which four teams of youngsters displayed their newly-developed Quick Rip 7s skills, the refreshment table provided an example of catering which the Ministry of Heath will surely be supporting at their own events in the future.
The tables were covered by an array of local fruit including some that even some locals did not recognise. This prompted one of the adult participants to reminisce about the “Kia Orana Day” of his era, where pupils were only allowed to bring local foods for lunch.
Quick Rip tournaments will take place over a number of weeks to decide on a champion team in the run-up to the start of the rugby season in June.
While the initial focus of this programme is on working with rugby and netball management in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and the Cook Islands, there is potential to include other sports and countries in the future.