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Cook Islands Rugby League to use inaugural Tri Series as Pacific Games trials

Wednesday 17 May 2023 | Written by Rashneel Kumar | Published in League, Sports


Cook Islands Rugby League to use inaugural Tri Series as Pacific Games trials
Cook Islands Rugby League president Charles Carlson, in front left, coach Clive Nicholas (middle row) with officials and players at yesterday's training run. LOSIRENE LACANIVALU/23051618

Cook Islands Rugby League is set to hold a Tri Nations Series competition featuring Cook Islands, Fiji Residents and Samoa/Tonga Residents next month.

The inaugural rugby league series will be held over three weeks and feature Conan Cup women’s matches between Town and Country as curtain raisers.

Cook Islands Rugby League secretary and competition coordinator Franky Toa said the decision to hold the series was made during their weekly meeting on Tuesday.

The Tri Nations Series is to help the national body select players for the Pacific Games in Solomon Islands in November this year. Cook Islands will field men and women teams in the Games’ Nines competition.

“This series is earmarked to serve as a selection for the Pacific Games teams for our men and women.” Toa said.

“We are not forgetting our age group players who are our future, we are planning to include them in this series as well in Town versus Country format.”

Cook Islands Rugby League president Charles Carlson said the series should be another exciting event to round off an excellent season.

“CIRL will also use this event as part of their fundraising activities for their two teams to the Pacific Games,” Carlson said.

“We will be using these games as a trial for the Pacific Games and aim to come up with our squad after the event.”

Cook Islands Rugby League is planning to hold the first match on Saturday, June 3, between Cook Islands and Fiji followed by Fiji versus Samoa clash on June 10 and Samoa versus Cook Islands match on June 17.

The venues will be confirmed later.

Clive Nicholas, the Cook Islands Nines men’s coach to the Pacific Games, welcomed the Tri Nations Series, calling it a “good concept”.

“We need more competitions, more games to build a formidable team for the Pacific Games. There’s no time for rest, we need to start preparing now to ensure we are ready for the Pacific Games.”

Nicholas released the Cook Islands squad for the Tri Series this week and held their first training run at Avatiu field yesterday.

He said majority of the players earmarked for the Pacific Games are in the Cook Islands squad for this upcoming series.

Nicholas said he alongside national 13s head coach Tony Iro, rugby league legend Kevin Iro and Carlson will keep a close eye on those players during the series.

“The idea is to pick a squad after the Tri Series for the Pacific Games rather than having a wider squad train for months and then some of the players missing out on selection. We don’t want to disappoint anyone; we want to pick our team now and get those players to undergo a five-month proper training before representing us at the Pacific Games.

“If any of the players from the squad gets injured and are ruled out, we will consider players who are playing regularly in semi-professional competitions in New Zealand or Australia as replacements.”

Nicholas thanked the Samoan, Tongan and Fijian communities for agreeing to this series to help prepare the national team.

“They are the ones who are pushing us to play extra well in domestic competitions and probably without them our competition level and standards would have dropped.

“Unfortunately, we can’t take our Fijian and Samoan brothers because they don’t qualify under the Nines rules but we are thankful for their support in helping us build a good team for the Pacific Games.”

The Samoa/Tonga Resident’s Okesene Moananu said majority of their players featured in the finals and were nursing their sore bodies after a tough season.

“We haven’t planned anything yet but when we held our initial discussion the players were keen as a way to keep playing to maintain their fitness,” Moananu said.

“We will start getting our boys together and find someone to coach, there are a few older boys floating around and we would like one of them to guide the team.”

The Fiji Residents team will be coached by Seruvi Ralulu Sr and managed by Ilai Bedini.

The players were supposed to meet last night to discuss their preparation for the series.

Bedini said: “We are happy to participate in this series and help with the Cook Islands team’s preparation for the Pacific Games.”

Cook Islands Residents – Avatiu Nikao Eels – Toru Katuke, Josh Motu, Napa Tomokino, Shark Henry, Leo Roa, Tamatoa Nicholas, Arorangi Bears – Rob Heather, Andrew Purua, Basil Matapo, Nick Maui, Tepa Tuaputa, Steven Willis. Ngatangiia Sea Eagles – Daniel Toa, Beau Daniels, Ryan Daniels. Titikaveka Bulldogs – Timo Tangirere. Tupapa Panthers – Eric Newbigging, Alistair Newbigging, Tevii Ngametua and Jason Putoru.