But Sea Eagles club executive Tamaiva Tuavera hit back, saying the dates of the tournament were not suitable for their players.
Tuavera said: “the Christmas and the New Year’s just finished and the players are working for their money”.
He said most of their regular players were tied up at work and could not avail themselves for this tournament.
Tuavera also claimed they asked the national rugby league body to consider changing the dates of the tournament.
Cook Islands Rugby League competition coordinator Tai Nelio said they were disappointed with the champions Sea Eagles for failing to put together a full team.
“It’s very disappointing to see the Cook Islands rugby league champions are not able to field a full team for this tournament.”
In their opening match against Titikaveka Bulldogs, the Sea Eagles, who won last year’s 13s competition without a loss, fielded only seven players, all of them young.
A couple of senior (retired) players led by former Cook Islands rugby union star Stan Wright came to their rescue joining the team from the grandstand. But they were unable to save the Muri-based club as it went down fighting 12-34.
The Sea Eagles lost their other matches to Avatiu Eels 8-24 and Arorangi Bears 4-14.
Meanwhile defending champions, the Tupapa Panthers, and Arorangi Bears finished day one of the Bishop’s Cruises Rugby League Nines in Paradise undefeated.
Panthers overcame Aitutaki Sharks 14-0 in their opening match before taking on the Bears in an exciting encounter.
The tit-for-tat battle between the two giants was marred with a controversial finish after the Bears walked off the field when the referee awarded Panthers a penalty following the hooter. The match ended in a 6-all draw.
The Darren Piri-coached Panthers played Titikaveka Bulldogs in their final match of day one, winning 22-14.
The Kevin Iro-coached Bears defeated Avatiu Eels 16-14 in a close and tough battle and defeated the Sea Eagles 14-4.
The remaining preliminary round matches will be held today before the semi-finals and playoffs.
Tupapa Panthers 14 Aitutaki Sharks 0, Avatiu Eels 14 Arorangi Bears 16, Ngatangiia Matavera Sea Eagles 12 Titikaveka Bulldogs 34, Panthers 6 Bears 6, Sharks 14 Bulldogs 26, Eels 24 Sea Eagles 8, Town Girls 20 Country Girls 8, Panthers 22 Bulldogs 14, Bears 14 Sea Eagles 4, Sharks 20 Eels 28
Today – 12.20pm Panthers-Sea Eagles, 12.40pm Bulldogs-Eels, 1pm Bears-Sharks, 1.20pm Panthers-Eels, 1.40pm Sea Eagles-Sharks, 2pm Bulldogs-Bears, 2.20pm Town Girls-Country Girls, 3pm Semi-final 1, 3.20pm Semi-final 2, 3.40pm Fifth place playoff, 4.20pm Town Girls-Country Girls, 4.40pm Third place playoff, 5pm Grand finale, 5.20pm Presentations