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Tuesday 4 July 2023 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Rugby league, Sports


Willison was in Broncos line-up
Xavier Willison. 23063011.

Cook Islands Rugby League has proven that Cook Islanders can compete at the elite level by qualifying at the last Rugby League World Cup, says League president Charles Carlson.

Carlson says it was good news seeing more Cook Islanders playing at an elite level.

This comes after Xavier Willison was in the starting line-up for the Broncos against Dolphins match over the weekend.

Carlson said: “For us to be competitive at the international level, our players must be playing at the highest level of competition not in rugby league only but across all codes.”

He said most sports have now gone semi or fully professional and if one is not careful the gap will start to widen between the nations.

“I think many of us are still stuck in this amateur mentality thinking we can still compete against the best in the World. 

“We are hugely disadvantaged with a tiny population but CIRL has proven that we can compete at the elite level by qualifying at the last Rugby League World Cup for both our men and women.”

He said it is not easy to qualify for any World event but CIRL has done it by simply picking the best of the best.

“And unfortunately the best comes from the NRL system.”

He said Willison made his debut for the Cook Islands last year against Toa Samoa. “Unfortunately, after sustaining an injury during the season, he missed the selection for the WC in England last year.”

However, Carlson said it was good to see him playing along another Cook Islands international Brendan Piakura.

“This is good for the Cook Islands as they prepare for the World Cup qualifying game against the African / Middle East winner for the World Cup 2025.” He added that the Women have already qualified for the World Cup 2025.