Wednesday 25 January 2012 | Published in Regional
The Canberra Raiders is continuing its raid of the Cook Islands, with the number of Kukis in the clubs ranks expanding over the summer.
Already featuring a small group of Cook Islanders in the NRLs Toyota Cup and New South Wales Cup competitions, the Raiders also took in a couple of young Kukis for a summer stint with the group.
As the winners Mana Ngaau and Maeva Smith were given the opportunity to try their talents with the club over the summer thanks to a scholarship programme being run by the club.
Canberra-based Cook Islands mentor Ezra Howe, who is a big driving force behind the Raiders love of Cook Islands players, and Raiders recruitment manager Mick Aldous found Ngaau and Smith during a trip to Rarotonga last year.
Howe and Aldous travelled to Rarotonga to see first hand the talent among young Kuki players during Octobers Kiwis-Kukis test match.
Although the main event did not occur the Kiwis team pulled out Aldous was still able to see what he came for in the matches between Cook Islands youngsters from the islands and from New Zealand.
The Raiders sponsor two scholarships for young Cook Islanders each year.
The scholarship winners get flown over to Canberra and spend at least two weeks as part of a January training camp in the Raiders system.
The scholarships typically go to Cook Islands Sports Academy (CISA) students, although this year one was given to someone outside the academy.
The trip gives the winners a taste of life at the club and an opportunity to extend the ties beyond the initial two weeks.
Ngaau, a member of CISA, and Smith, a member of the Cook Islands New Zealand under 18s team, were chosen as the winners this year.
The pair joined a small Cook Islands community already at the Raiders.
Those players include Adam Tangata, who has senior experience with the Raiders NRL side, and Mark Tuati, Tai Joseph and Nga Simiona with the clubs junior teams in the Toyota Cup and NSW Cup.
CISA tutor Kevin Iro said the Raiders scholarship programme benefitted all involved the club, the players and CISA.
He said the players would get a taste of what life is like at an NRL club, theyd also be making ties with a strong club which enjoys being the only club for the city it is based in.
Back in October, Aldous said the relationship between the Cook Islands and the Raiders was a fruitful one and the club wanted to nurture that as best it could.
Im here just because its such a successful relationship and we wanted to forward this relationship between the Cook Islands and the Raiders, Aldous said.