Cook Islands’ historic win against Tonga in the World Cup Nines has restored pride in the national jersey, says Charles Carlson.
The Kukis stunned Tonga Invitational 30-7 on day one of the Nines tournament on Thursday in Sydney.
The Tony Iro-coached side lost to Samoa in the second match 4-17 before beating Fiji 12-10 yesterday to finish second in their pool. However the wins were not enough to put the national side into the semi-finals.
Carlson, the president of Cook Islands Rugby League, hopes Cook Islands’ impressive form in the Nines will get their star players to consider playing for the team in the future.
“The win restored a lot of pride back into the jersey and this will make players think twice in making the Cook Islands as their second choice,” Carlson said.
“New Zealand and Australia have always creamed the best off the Cook Islands and we want to reverse that trend like what Tonga did, for Cook Islands to be able field the best of the best in representing our nation.
“This win (against Tonga) also game the players and management the confidence that we can compete and win at this level of competition.”
Cook Islands international Anthony Gelling shared similar sentiments, urging the country’s eligible stars to come back and spark a Tongan-style revolution.
“It’s outrageous man (the talent we have),” Gelling told foxsports.com.au.
“It’s one of those things. All those guys at one point we played together.
“It’s the same for some of these Steven Marsters, you can see what he’s like, he’ll be playing for Australia and New Zealand in a couple of years’ time.
“That’s one of the things we’ve been talking about this week is bridging that gap between the top nations and where we are. Over time that will hopefully happen.
“The eligibility rules have changed a bit. You’re always welcome to drop back to your heritage teams. It’s for the good of the game.”
Carlson said the win against Tonga got the people talking about the Cook Islands.
“Cook Islands wasn’t even in the picture for the Nines and now the world stage is asking questions about the Cook Islands and this is brilliant result for our nation.”
Australia, who was the only unbeaten side from the pool play, New Zealand, England and Samoa featured in the semis which was played late last night.