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League comp set to kick off

Wednesday 8 February 2023 | Written by Rashneel Kumar | Published in Rugby league, Sports


League comp set to kick off
Titikaveka Bulldogs’ Jeff Magele barges through in the League Nines in Paradise tournament last month. The Bulldogs will take on Ngatangiia Matavera Sea Eagles this Friday at Teimurimotia Park. 23010926

The Cook Islands Rugby League domestic 13s competition will kick off this Friday as five Rarotonga clubs set to vie for the title.

The annual competition was cancelled last year following the Covid-19 outbreak in February.

Cook Islands Rugby League president Charles Carlson said: “Everyone is looking forward to the start of the season after the season was cancelled due to the Covid.”

“It was very disappointing that the season was cancelled the last couple of years. This was an event beyond our control so everyone is eager to get back into the game.”

The 2023 season will see Tupapa Panthers, Avatiu Nikao Eels, Arorangi Bears, Titikaveka Bulldogs and Ngatangiia Matavera Sea Eagles competing.

In the opening match of the competition this Friday at Teimurimotia Park, the Bulldogs will host the Sea Eagles at 5pm.

In the feature match of round one to be played on Saturday at the Aeretere Park, home side Eels will take on Panthers at 4pm.

The rest of the grades will kick-off next week as clubs are still trying to sort out numbers, Cook Islands Rugby League says.

Carlson said: “There is also a big focus on junior development this year with the aim of developing the game from the U8s to U12s.”

“We need to get back to teaching our children the game basics. We have had four sessions so far, and already a massive improvement in their skills and knowledge of the game.”

Cook Islands Rugby League is also targeting junior coaches to be part of the programme “so they know what is expected of these players and they progress through the grades”.

“At this stage the junior programme is organised for 9am-11am every Saturday morning and will follow the main draw of the week. The juniors will be at Avatiu field this Saturday.”

Pacific Games

On the international front, Carlson said the association is also mindful of the Pacific Games at the end of the year and would like to take both teams to the games. 

However, at this stage only the league women have been approved by Cook Islands Sports and National Olympic Committee to participate after winning bronze at the last Pacific Games in Samoa.  

“The league season is, therefore critical to the preparation for this Pacific Games for our women,” said Carlson. “We will also be selecting a couple of overseas-based players to beef up the team providing they meet the Pacific Games eligibility criteria.”

“CIRL is yet to confirm whether to take a men’s team pending whether they can justify to CISNOC that the team can potentially win a medal at Pacific Games. However, the deciding factor will come down to the enormous costs of taking two teams to the Pacific Games.”

Carlson says the association is also faced with the World Cup qualifier at the end of the year therefore will have to decide where its priorities lies.  

“The World Cup will always be the ultimate goal for CIRL. Will do everything we can to qualify for the World Cup 2025 with a top eight finish to automatically qualify for the following World Cup 2030.”