Cooks inspired franchise Won’t play in the US league

Wednesday September 09, 2020 Written by Published in Rugby Union

A Hawai‘i Pacific professional rugby franchise that stirred up a storm by using Rarotonga’s unique depiction of Tangaroa for its commercial branding, will not play in next year’s Major League Rugby competition in the US.


In a statement, Major League Rugby (MLR) announced that the Exclusive Negotiating Agreement it executed with Kanaloa Hawai’i Rugby Ltd. has expired.

“MLR Commissioner George Killebrew has encouraged this potential ownership group to continue with its development plans so that it may be in a position to join MLR for a future MLR season.”

The ownership group include former Cook Islands rugby officials – Tracy Atiga, husband Matt Atiga (Cook Islands 7s) and former national 15s team manager Cam Kilgour.

Last month, Cook Islanders threatened the rugby franchise with a legal challenge, through the World Intellectual Property Organisation, for using Rarotonga’s distinctive Tangaroa in its branding.

The team branding was decried as “disrespectful and culturally insensitive”.

Tracy Atiga admitted it was a mistake for her to use Rarotonga’s Tangaroa without seeking permission.

She said they would start afresh, talking to master carver Mike Tavioni and other authorities, before creating a new Tangaroa image.

Earlier this year, Kanaloa Hawai’i said it had appointed former All Blacks and Wallabies skills coach Mick Byrne to coach the side in MLR, with former All Black Tamati Ellison as his assistant.

The group’s director, Tracy Atiga, also talked about ambitious plans to launch a bid for a Pacific Island team in Super Rugby in 2020.

“The fact that a Super team has actually come up, the timing has been amazing,” Atiga told Stuff.

“I don’t think we are short of anyone else who is applying for that (PI) team.

“Money talks. If we want pay for a world-class high performance facility then we’ll do that.

“We'll probably look at Mount Smart, and there’s no reason we wouldn’t look at Eden Park.”

-         Additional reporting from Stuff

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