Marata Niukore has been given a special exemption to play for the Kiwis at next month’s Rugby League World Cup.
International Rugby League rules, the Warriors bound forward wouldn’t be
allowed to play in the tournament.
reason for this is that he played for the Cook Islands in a World Cup
qualifying test against the USA in 2019. Earlier this year he played for the
Kiwis against Tonga at Mt Smart Stadium.
the rules, Niukore shouldn’t be able to play for either the Cook Islands or New
Zealand at the tournament.
10 of the International Rugby League’s eligibility rules for international
rugby league states a player can move between a tier one and a tier two nation
freely, but this may not happen during a tournament, including qualifying for a
that rule blocks Niukore from playing for the Kiwis at the World Cup.
he gets hit by rule three, which says a player who has elected to represent a
nation cannot then elect to represent another nation in the same calendar year.
rule stops Niukore switching back to representing the Cook Islands at the World
coach Michael Maguire explained the predicament Niukore found himself in and
how they were able to find a solution.
played a qualifying game three years ago for the Cook Islands and there is a
rule that if you’ve played in a qualifying game, you couldn’t then play for
another country (at a World Cup),” Maguire said.
had no idea of that rule at the time. He had the opportunity to play [for Cook
Islands]. Probably wasn’t as established as he is now as a first-grader, so he
went and played.
forward to this year’s midyear test. Marata had knowledge that if he played in
that test, there was every chance he wouldn’t play in the World Cup.
we were very fortunate that the committee for the World Cup looked at that
situation, looked at the human side of things and allowed him now to be
qualified to be able to play for New Zealand.”
26-year-old Niukore was born in Auckland and it had always been his dream to
play for the Kiwis.
has had a sensational year for the Eels, playing in Friday night’s semifinal
against the Raiders, but from next season will be at the Warriors.
it appeared cut and dried that Niukore shouldn’t be able to play for any nation
at the World Cup, New Zealand Rugby League made the point that there were an
unusual set of circumstances which led to this situation, including the World
Cup being put back a year, because of Covid-19.
has always wanted to play for the Kiwis and showed that by playing the midyear
test, knowing that there could have been a restriction on him playing at the
World Cup,” Maguire said.
the international committee looked at it and felt there was enough for them to
say he was able to play for New Zealand.”
no doubt Cook Islands coach Tony Iro would have loved to been able to include a
player of Niukore’s quality in his side, but Maguire said they accepted
Cook Islands guys, to their credit, they’ve been across this and have supported
the situation as well,” he said.
were aware that Marata one day hoped to play for the Kiwis, so it’s a credit to
the Cook Island people to get behind the pathway Marata has gone down.”