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Five clubs battle for glory in rugby league 13s comp

Thursday 8 February 2024 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in League, Sports

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Five clubs battle for glory in rugby league 13s comp
Arorangi Bears’ Taio Taio gets tackled by Tupapa Panthers in the final of the 2023 Rugby Leagues 13s Competition. LOSIRENE LACANIVALU/ 23051418

The 2024 Cook Islands Rugby League 13s competition kicks off tomorrow with all five clubs fielding formidable teams in the fiercely contested premier men’s grade.

Cook Islands Rugby League (CIRL) secretary Francis Toa says rugby league has always been an island favourite sport to watch, participate in and support.

Toa said the premier men’s teams Tupapa Maraerenga Panthers, Avatiu/Nikao Eels, Arorangi Bears, Titikaveka Bulldogs and the Ngatangiia/Matavera Sea Eagles will be battling for the title this year.

She said the women’s competition has lost some traction with Avatiu/Nikao Eels withdrawing its team from this year’s competition due to unavailability of players.

However, Toa says this has not dampened the spirit of women’s rugby league with three clubs fielding a team each – Lady Panthers, Lady Bears and Lady Bulldogs.

The opening match of the 2024 Cook Islands Rugby League domestic 13s competition on Friday will be between neighbours Titikaveka Bulldogs and Ngatangiia Matavera Sea Eagles.

The premier men’s clash will kick off at 5pm at Victoria Park in Tupapa.

The remaining round one matches will be played on Saturday at Victoria Park, starting with junior development (six to 12 years old) at 12 noon, culminating with the women’s clash between Lady Panthers and Lady Bulldogs followed by the premier men’s match between Tupapa Panthers and defending champions Arorangi Bears.

Toa acknowledged that “the lower grades are a work in progress”, adding the Cook Islands Rugby League will closely liaise with club leaders to determine the availability of teams in the competition.

“Despite just completing a successful 9s tournament in January, the progress with preparation for the season has been somewhat slow for some and real positive for others,” Toa said.

“As an avid fan of the rugby league games, I am looking forward to watching the first game which will kick-off on Friday between the Bulldogs and Sea Eagles.”

Toa said the Sea Eagles are under the guidance of Deon Nepia and Bulldogs under the guidance of national representative Mark Tuaati. The two coaches have been working hard to get their players up to scratch.

“I commend both coaches and teams.”

Saturday’s clash between the Bears and Panthers promises to be a highlight, as the Bears narrowly defeated the Panthers in the 2023 grand finals, said Toa.

She said the Eels take a bye this weekend and will take the field in week two of the competition.

All games, including the Friday fixtures, will be hosted at one venue with this weekend’s game being hosted by the Tupapa Panthers at Victoria Park.

Toa said that they will continue with the junior development programme and this will kick-off at 12pm.

Fixtures

Tomorrow at Victoria Park – 5pm Premier Men Bulldogs vs Sea Eagles; Saturday at Victoria Park – 12pm Junior Development (six years to 12 years old), 2.15pm U14 Panthers vs Sea Eagles, 3.15pm U16 Panthers vs Bears, 4.15pm Women’s Panthers vs Bulldogs, 5pm Premier Panthers vs Bears.