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Saturday 24 June 2023 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Rugby league, Sports


League turns focus to Pacific Games
Cook Islands Residents team at last week’s Cook Islands Rugby League Tri Nations Series final against Tokouso- Samoa/ Tonga Residents. LOSIRENE LACANIVALU/23061833

The Cook Islands rugby league men’s team to the 2023 Pacific Games in November is aiming to bring home a medal after going down in the inaugural Tri Nations Series decider a week ago.

The Clive Nicholas-coached side is shrugging off criticism of their 20-6 loss to Tokouso Samoa-Tonga Residents on Saturday last week at Aretere Park.

The side is now focused on the Pacific Games in Solomon Islands in November.

Nicholas told Cook Islands News that he was disappointed with the loss against Tokouso because they wanted to make a statement by winning that tournament.

He said their training and preparation were on par but on the day, things didn’t go their way.

From the second half “it started getting really messy”, Nicholas said.

“The game was ours but we just couldn’t hold our ball in crucial areas on the field ...we can’t blame the weather, we are rugby players and it’s played in all sorts of conditions. We couldn’t get game mentality like we did a week before against Tabusoro.”

On the positive note, Nicholas said the series revealed a big pool of young players that should be ready for national duties from next year onwards.

“Which was beautiful for me to witness. Also, the other positive was we got to make judgments on the lot that have been earmarked for the Pacific Games 2023.

“I needed to see where they stand in terms of footy and what’s lacking in terms of fitness and their mental capabilities. I clearly saw the problem and it is what we are going to work towards while we prepare for the Games.”

Nicholas said the final squad will have majority of local players with the remaining half from New Zealand and Australia, “preferably those in positions I think are crucial and where we lack in our country today”.

“At first there were 90 per cent locals which will then help build our level locally but since the end of league season many have ruled themselves unavailable due to work and family commitments which is understandable.

“So I have resorted to names given to me by contacts we have in league circles in New Zealand and Australia.”

Nicholas was part of the squad that won the last rugby league medal at a regional game – a silver medal at the 2009 Mini Games that was held in Rarotonga. His brother was part of the 2007 Pacific Games team that also won a medal.

“Both teams were 100 per cent locals. As much as I want to keep that way the reality is post Covid, people in general are not wasting precious time anymore.

“Our aim is simple, bring back a medal like we did in the 2007 and 2009 Games. And all it is going to take is a lot of work, dedication and sacrifice.

“I can’t wait to get started with this squad.”