Cook Islands coach Tony Iro. Photo: PHOTOSPORT/22082102
Cook Islands received a massive boost ahead of a daunting Rugby League World Cup campaign with English-based former NRL star Brad Takairangi telling officials he’s ready to play in the tournament. By Jason Costigan.
just before the Kukis departed Sydney for England on Friday afternoon
(Australian time), coach Tony Iro said he had been assured that Takairangi
would not be a risk after being sidelined for five months with a serious
is fit and ready to go,” insisted Iro, who’s relying heavily on the
33-year-old, an NRL veteran whose big time career started with the Sydney
Roosters, then Gold Coast and Parramatta before moving to English club Hull
for Takairangi, injury curtailed his time in Super League, with the Sydney-born
utility limited to 24 appearances over two seasons with the Robins.
year was a nightmare for the man who debuted for the Cook Islands in 2009, as
he has not played a game since May.
was after Takairangi found himself in serious off-field trouble, crashing into
a police car early this year whilst under the influence of alcohol, resulting
in a suspended prison sentence and 300 hours community service work.
for the hamstring, it was so bad, it required surgery, with then Hull KR coach
Tony Smith predicting 2022 would be a write-off for his experienced Polynesian.
gutted for him,” the record-breaking Super League coach said at the time.
“That’s his season done.”
Iro said Takairangi’s surgery had gone well and likewise his rehabilitation as
he raced the clock for RLWC2021.
recovery has been carefully managed in the UK. We have been getting regular
reports and if there had been any doubts, we wouldn’t have picked him,”
explained Iro, whose team copped a 42-12 hammering by Samoa in Sydney on June
is capable of playing a variety of positions – from centre to second-row
including stand-off or five-eighth – and at this stage, where he plays in the
national side remains undecided.
said he would worry about that once the playing group had settled into their
digs, with the Kukis to be based in the North Yorkshire soccer city of
Middlesbrough, 15 minutes from Captain Cook’s birthplace.
can play in the halves or centre or in the back-row. I’m not sure yet. I want
to look at some training runs and where he best fits the squad,” said the coach
whose players will have an “opposed” session against World Cup debutantes
Greece, instead of a warm-up game.
Kukis, ranked 20th in the world in the latest International Rugby League
rankings, have been grouped with Wales (16), Papua New Guinea (5) and Tonga (2)
with their opening match against the Welsh on October 19 at Leigh.
hosts England kick off proceedings on October 15 against the Samoans in
Newcastle with defending champions Australia beginning their title defence that
evening against Fiji in Leeds.
Cook Islands are also contesting the women’s World Cup, with the eight-team
competition commencing next month – our girls clashing first-up with
Australia’s Jillaroos on November 2.
finals of both tournaments will be held at Manchester’s iconic Old Trafford on
– Tevin Arona (Auckland), Tinirau Arona (Wakefield Trinity), Geoffrey Daniela
(St Marys Saints), Johnathon Ford (Featherstone Rovers), Anthony Gelling
(Auckland), Kayal Iro (Cronulla Sharks), Makahesi Makatoa (Parramatta Eels),
Steven Marsters (Thirroul Butchers), Esan Marsters-Siavale (Huddersfield
Giants), Davvy Moale (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Tepai Moeroa (Melbourne Storm),
Dylan Napa (Catalan Dragons), Ruatapu Ngatikaura (Wests Tigers), Moses
Noovao-McGreal (Norths Devils), Pride Pettersen-Robati (NZ Warriors), Dominique
Peyroux (Toulouse Olympique), Brendan Piakura (Brisbane Broncos), Reuben Porter
(Tweed Heads Seagulls), Vincent Rennie (Newtown Jets), Reubenn Rennie (Newtown
Jets), Brad Takairangi (Hull Kingston Rovers), Aaron Teroi (CQ Capras), Zane
Tetevano (Leeds Rhinos), Paul Ulberg (London Broncos). Stand-by players are
Adam Tangata (Halifax) and Malachi Morgan (Southport Tigers).
Costigan is an international rugby league commentator and journalist, who’s
called more than 200 NRL games including a Grand Final and almost 50
internationals including a World Cup Final. He has also called English Super
League and was in Fiji last month to broadcast the nation’s Vodafone Cup Grand
Final, meaning ‘Costo’ has now called Rugby League in 10 countries. You can
follow him on Twitter @CostoJason.