Cook Islands open men’s touch team to the upcoming Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands. SUPPLIED/23102506
The Cook Islands open men’s touch team is gearing up for next month’s Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands with a squad dominated by youth.
Ngametua, who is still at school, and numerous others, such as Maka Maui
Junior, John Noovao, and Oscar Wichman, just fresh out of school, are making
positive improvements each training session.
a number of experienced players either retiring, unavailable, or relocating to
New Zealand and Australia for work, this campaign has paved the way for our
local-based youth in Rarotonga to develop and step up,” said Geoff Halston, the
a bold move, 10 players out of the squad of 14 are set to represent the Cook
Islands as debutants, stepping onto the international Open Touch stage at the
Pacific Games for the first time.
team’s management sees this as a visionary step towards the future, providing
invaluable high-level exposure to these budding talents.
the way will be veterans Puna Hiro and Vou Williams.
said that the team will take a “one game at a time approach” because they are
essentially a new team.
strategy is to build a solid foundation by sticking to the basics, with a focus
on their systems and play, rather than the opposition and results. This emphasises
the importance of the young squad gaining exposure by playing under pressure,
achieving process goals, and gaining experience at a prestigious tournament
like the Pacific Games, says Halston.
a competition where the level of touch has really grown in the region over the
last 10 years, seasoned campaigners like Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, and
Niue boast a line-up of well-drilled and experienced players, many of whom
played in the last Touch World Cup, previous Pacific Games, and play overseas
in Australia and New Zealand.
particular Cook Islands’ team stands out with its youthful exuberance.
only a small playing number base here in Rarotonga, and the residency
eligibility criteria of five years, we have no option but to field a
predominantly island-based squad, so this put the onus on our local Touch
Community to identify and develop our grassroots playing base here, to be as
competitive as possible,” said Vou Williams.
12 out of the 14 players in the squad are based in Rarotonga, showcasing the
depth of youth keen to play, with two overseas-based players relocating to
Australia and New Zealand for employment during the Covid-19 pandemic.
manager Noel Mani expressed excitement about the team’s progress, emphasising
that they are looking to the future by providing an opportunity for their
believe in nurturing our local talent, and this tournament is a stepping stone
for these young players to higher representation and possibly towards the
pinnacle of Touch – the World Cup next year in Nottingham, England.
our competitors may have the edge in experience, we bring the energy and hunger
to make a mark,” Mani said.
the Cook Islands open men’s touch rugby team embarks on this tough yet
enriching journey to the 2023 Pacific Games, they are grateful for the support
from friends, family, sponsors, and the whole of the Cook Islands.
2023 Pacific Games will be held from 19 November to 2 December in Honiara.