Cook Islands U21 netball are on the search for a new team to take them through the Oceania qualifiers in Fiji to the World Youth Cup next year.
Registrations are open for players across the Cook Islands, New Zealand and Australia with trials for the U21 national squad to be held locally in Rarotonga.
Andrea Rongokea, Netball Cook Islands’ vice-president for high performance, says the trials are an excellent opportunity for young Cook Island netballers across the Pacific to showcase their talents and for the netball community to see the triallists in action.
“The call-out for Cook Islands’ players was through our Cook Islands’ sporting communities in both New Zealand and Australia, and the response to date has been excellent.
They wanted to name a squad of 12, with four non-travelling reserves, she said.
More than 15 New Zealand and Australia-based Cook Islands netballers had put up their hands for trials; another 10 to 15 locals had registered. “So it will be an exciting three days.”
One triallist is Arorangi player Simone Nicholas, 19. She has already been playing with the U21 club side for a year.
For Nicholas, it’s a passion that goes right back to her roots with family members representing the Cook Islands on the international stage.
She hopes to make the team in order to instil the same inspiration for other young future netballers.
“I want us playing for Cook Islands to be an inspiration to the little ones here wanting to play in the team in the future.”
This year’s regional qualifiers for Oceania will be hosted in Suva, later this year.
The World Youth Cup is a pinnacle event for emerging players, who Netball Cook Islands hope will help develop netball at home.
The Cook Islands placed 12th in the 2017 World Youth Netball Cup in Botswana, and Rongokea says it was an “eye-opener” for all involved to be on the African continent.
Fiji have already been granted automatic entry to the World Cup as the host country and New Zealand qualify due to world ranking.
With only two spots available and stiff competition, Rongokea says the team will need to work extremely hard in order to gain qualification to the World Cup.
“We have some excellent talent both locally and from overseas, and the recipe for success will come from team work, commitment, sacrifice and of course fitness!” she says.
“The U21 team is a pathway to our national squad and so the clear opportunity is for our girls to continue their netball journey to the highest level with Netball Cook Islands.”
Registrations for the team will be closing on the 31st of January. Netball Cook Islands is encouraging those interested to get in now.
Applications can be sent to