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Sharks back and biting!

Saturday 14 January 2012 | Published in Regional

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Aitutakis rugby league community is putting out an early warning to its Rarotongan counterparts the Sharks are back with more bite this year.

Early fundraising, a summers worth of game time and fledging development programme at the island will all combine to make the Sharks meaner, more focused and better prepared for season 2012, according to club president Mona Ioane.

Aitutaki has produced many top players who have gone on to represent the Cook Islands at a national level and now the island was aiming to match that ability with its domestic team, Ioane said.

League players have been on the field since December in anticipation of Februarys start to the Cook Islands Rugby League competition, with locals playing against each other as well as the returning Aitutakians who were home over the Christmas.

The island has also hosted a rugby league nines competition over the summer, which is coming to a culmination this month though a knock-out round on Wednesday and a grand final the following week.

Ioane said the message Aitutaki is trying to get across is this: there is no off season for rugby league on the island.

We have never stopped playing, he said. One of the biggest problems we had last year was that we werent prepared. This is why weve brought back the nines, to help keep the boys fit for when the season starts in early February.

We have also been fundraising during the festive season to help pay for airfares. Fundraising is our biggest hurdle, but this year we have raised a lot of money already and, unlike last year where we started late, weve been raising funds for a long time.

Rugby league brings a lot of joy and a good economic injection to Aitutaki, Ioane said, and Aitutaki wanted to ensure their club remained in the domestic league.

He said the work the club had done off the field this year was going some ways to keep them competitive and viable.

This year, the Sharks are aiming to raise their young player development programmes, especially for school-leavers.

A number of younger players will be testing their skills on the field during the nines competition, with each of the four teams fielding an under 18s and senior side.

Ioane said the younger players were showing a lot of encouraging signs for the Sharks and the club intended to bring a couple of young players with them to Rarotonga for each game played at the capital island this season.

He said the players would benefit greatly from the exposure to the competition and the club was eager to see the season begin.

Draw: January 18 at Vaipae 4pm, under 13s, East v West; 4.30pm, under 18s, Arenikau v Vaipae; 5pm, under 18s, Tautu v AU; 5.30pm, seniors, AU v Arenikau; 6.05pm, seniors, Tautu v Vaipae.