Ashleigh Wihongi-Willis is looking to steer Cook Islands rugby towards a healthy future. 21060905
New Cook Islands Rugby Union president Ashleigh Wihongi-Willis is embarking on a bold path to level the playing field for men and women in the sport.
Wihongi-Willis took the reins at the union’s annual general meeting on Monday.
credited former CIRU executive member Lara Sadaraka with “forging the way for
females in rugby”.
there needs to be more time put into women’s rugby, it’s unfortunate because
essentially we have a good pool of local and international talent.
need to give them the career pathways to succeed.”
is joined by vice president Simiona Teiotu, new executives assistant treasurer
Rachel Metuangaro and assistant secretary Tereapii Tumutoa, treasurer Anthony
Turua, and secretary William Taripo.
are the first rugby union in the Pacific to have two females on the board,”
Wihongi-Willis said. “At the end of the day it comes down to funding and I
think that is where my strength lies.
have already secured some funding to go towards our under 18 women’s sevens
development pathway program and we will be looking to secure more funding in
the coming year so we can equal out the opportunities to males and females.”
role is voluntary, she said.
said she has a big vision for Cook Islands rugby.
most important thing we need to do is put a working committee together to
revise our new constitution, it has to be revised to make it relevant and
actionable to the situations we as the Cook Islands uniquely face in rugby.
biggest part of the uniqueness which can be navigated as a strength is our
have to utilize Cook Islanders both here and abroad in order to strengthen our
task would come with challenges, Wihongi-Willis said.
are a lot of logistical issues when putting international teams together,” she
said. “For me the vision would be that we strengthen and grow participation at
club level, it’s our job to facilitate that growth at club level.
if we don’t strengthen grassroots rugby we have no union.
are a lower-tier country in terms of rugby, we have to navigate the logistics
of being organised and prepared; we have to be ready and competitive at short
longer term vision was to develop the infrastructure to retain Cook Islanders.
can develop infrastructure so that Cook Islanders will no longer have to leave
our shores in order to develop in rugby,” she said.
would bring Cook Islanders back home by building an academy by which we can
strengthen and develop rugby, as well as our population issue.”
included developing career pathways in rugby for youth “both male and female”,
are looking to develop a database to keep track of players here and overseas.”
also vice president of the Arorangi Rugby Club, said she had undertaken online
training with the support of World Rugby funding and CIRU executive members in
preparation for the role.
have been working closely with CIRU rugby development manager Ben Koteka for
the past two years,” she said.
have taken over portfolios for junior and women’s development in the past
couple of years, I have really enjoyed those opportunities and I look forward
to strengthening those pillars.”
vision was the development of rugby in the Pa Enua, she said.
about growth, participation in the sport, and career pathways.
want to congratulate our board, especially Tereapii Tumutoa who is our delegate
for Aitutaki, and has a vision of development in the Pa Enua.
also want to congratulate Rachel Metuangaro, who has done a lot of work in the
past two years.”
takes over from Simiona Teiotu, who will hold the role of CIRU vice president.