Due to New Zealand not participating in the tournament, Nati is about to join the team after representing the Kiwi Ferns at last year’s Rugby League World Cup.
“She’s an exceptional player,” Cook Islands Rugby League Association president Charles Carlson said. Carlson said the aim of the tournament was to qualify for the final against Australia, no easy feat considering their pool opponents were Canada and Tonga. Australia, meanwhile, will face Fiji and Samoa in pool play. “Rugby league is trying to gain entry into the Commonwealth Games and this tournament is to showcase the game of rugby league leading up to the games proper,” Carlson said.
“Hopefully in the near future rugby league will be included in the games.”
The CIRLA had to fund their own way to the tournament, which was made more difficult by the cost of competing in the World Cup late last year.
Some of the players put their country first, as they had to fund their own way to participate in the tournament, while the CIRLA was chasing hard after sponsors.
“It is not easy, and a lot of sacrifice has gone into getting Cook Islands represented at this international event,” said Carlson.
Unfortunately, the men’s side will not be joining their female compatriots on the trip.
“We had a better chance of getting the women’s team in, hence the reason for pushing that team. Ultimately, we are glad that at least we have a team in there.”
The two-day tournament will begin on February 23. The Cook Islands will play their Pacific rivals before facing off against Canada. - CL