Cook Islanders in Kiwis squad

Friday 8 October 2021 | Written by RNZ | Published in Rugby league, Sports

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Cook Islanders in Kiwis squad
Cook Islander Marata Niukore. 21100719

Cook Islands Rugby League remains optimistic of fielding a strong team at next year’s Rugby League World Cup despite the selection of five players of Cook Islands descent in the Kiwis’ World Cup squad.

Joseph Manu (Sydney Roosters), Charnze Nicoll-Klolstad (Canberra Raiders), Marata Niukore (Parramatta Eels), Jordan Rapana (Canberra Raiders) and Joseph Tapine (Canberra Raiders) have been named in New Zealand’s 38-member World Cup wider squad.

They have Cook Islands connection and could be eligible to represent the country at the tournament starting in October next year.

While congratulating the players on their selection, Charles Carlson, the president of the Cook Islands Rugby League, said they were also in the national team list for the World Cup.

“Great to see these players being considered for the Kiwi World Cup squad in October 2022, but we are still a year away from making a decision. The final squad will come down to their performance during the 2022 season, not on past years performances,” Carlson said.

“These players undoubtedly stood out during the season and were unfortunate, with Manu and Klolstad suffering some severe injuries. Marata was the surprise choice at centres for Parramatta, having played his career as a second-rower but had an exceptional season. Rapana switching to the fullback for the Raiders, replacing the injured Klolstad, also had an awe-inspiring season.

“These players are also on our list, so their choice who they represent at the World Cup.”

Carlson said they were pleased to see a number of the young players making their debut this year in the NRL.

He is hoping these players get themselves established in the competition for 2022.

“We always struggled with the small pool of players playing at the highest level of competition but that number is slowly growing and the future is looking good.”

However one of the challenges the Cook Islands Rugby League faces is player eligibility.

“The issue we have is, does the player meet the eligibility criteria to play for the Cooks. Players can say they have Cook Islands descents, but how far do you go back in their genealogy?

“The eligibility rule is clear, your parent/s or grandparent/s must be born in the Cook Islands, so many players don’t qualify because of this very restricted definition. We have argued the eligibility rule and will continue to debate this rule.”

Meanwhile NRL premiership-winning Penrith Panthers player and top prop James Fisher-Harris headlines the Kiwis’ Rugby League World Cup wider squad announced on Wednesday – a year out from the rescheduled showpiece event.

The 38-man squad will work towards a June Pacific Test and Trans-Tasman clash, before the October 2022 World Cup campaign.

The NRL’s Backrower of the Year and Eels’ golden buy, Isaiah Papali’i makes the cut alongside fellow Parramatta playmakers Dylan Brown and Marata Niukore.

Melbourne Storm’s Brandon Smith is also named in the squad.

Other Kiwi Storm talent included Reimis Smith who locked in his selection with 14 tries this year and standout half Jahrome Hughes, who was instrumental in a well-oiled Melbourne side that ran rampant throughout 2021.

Star Rooster’s centre Joey Manu is included after one of his best seasons in the NRL which included 12 line breaks, 10 tries and 141 metres per game.

Manu is joined by veteran Kiwi prop and Roosters teammate Jared Waerea-Hargreaves who made 1280 post-contact metres in 23 appearances for 2021.

Corey Harawira-Naera returns after a dominant performance in his first full season at Canberra, and departing Shark Shaun Johnson is joined by Cronulla teammates Ronaldo Mulitalo, Braden Hamlin-Uele and Briton Nikora.

Newcomers include Bronco’s back-rower and former Junior Kiwis captain Jordan Riki, who enters the squad after a solid debut season.

Titan’s Hooker and former Manurewa Marlin Erin Clark gets the call up alongside dynamic youngster Josh Schuster and Waikato born Morgan Harper after a breakthrough seasons with Manly.

The World Cup was originally scheduled to take place this month in England, before New Zealand and Australia expressed safety concerns in the Covid-19 environment and withdrew from the tournament.

- Additional reporting by RNZ

Kiwis squad

1 Josh Aloiai - Manly Sea Eagles, 2 Nelson Asofa-Solomona - Melbourne Storm, 3 Jesse Bromwich - Melbourne Storm, 4 Kenny Bromwich - Melbourne Storm, 5 Dylan Brown - Parramatta Eels, 6 Erin Clark - Gold Coast Titans, 7 James Fisher-Harris - Penrith Panthers, 8 Kieran Foran - Manly Sea Eagles,

9 Braden Hamlin-Uele - Cronulla Sharks, 10 Corey Harawira-Naera - Canberra Raiders, 11 Morgan Harper - Manly Sea Eagles, 12 Tohu Harris – Warriors, 13 Chanel Harris-Tavita – Warriors, 14 Peta Hiku – Warriors, 15 Jahrome Hughes - Melbourne Storm, 16 Jamayne Isaako - Brisbane Broncos, 17 Shaun Johnson - Cronulla Sharks, 18 Isaac Liu - Sydney Roosters, 19 Joseph Manu - Sydney Roosters, 20 Jeremy Marshall-King - Canterbury Bulldogs, 21 Ken Maumalo - Wests Tigers, 22 Ronaldo Mulitalo - Cronulla Sharks, 23 Charnze Nicoll-Klolstad - Canberra Raiders, 24 Briton Nikora- Cronulla Sharks, 25 Kodi Nikorima- Warriors, 26 Marata Niukore - Parramatta Eels, 27 Isaiah Paplii - Parramatta Eels, 28 Kevin Proctor - Gold Coast Titans, 29 Jordan Rapana - Canberra Raiders, 30 Jordan Riki - Brisbane Broncos, 31 Joshua Schuster - Manly Sea Eagles, 32 Bailey Simonsson - Canberra Raiders, 33 Brandon Smith - Melbourne Storm, 34 Reimis Smith - Melbourne Storm, 35 Joseph Tapine - Canberra Raiders, 36 Jazz Tevaga – Warriors, 37 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves - Sydney Roosters, 38 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak – Warriors.

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