Pops Arona was chosen this week to lead the U20’s Cook Island team, who has the immediate task of preparing the team for the Oceania U20s tournament, to take place later this year.
The former Arorangi Cowboys halfback submitted his CV after seeing an advert for the job, which highlighted what a forward thinking candidate he was.
“When I submitted my CV, I included a detailed vision and plan for the position going forward,” Arona explained.
“I laid out a comprehensive plan detailing vision, mission, intentions, intended outcomes, player identification, as well as development, networks, sponsorship, strategic development in coaches and building closer links and relationships amongst our Cook Islands rugby communities.”
A teacher at Abundant Life School in Northland, Arona says he was honoured to be appointed to the position, one that he regards as a hugely important assignment that is critical for the future of Cook Islands Rugby.
Rugby is in his blood, and he views the sport as one that instils important life attributes such as teamwork and commitment, so getting into coaching after his playing days was a natural progression.
“I learned so much from having played rugby and felt that the disciplines of the game were good for children, youth and adults alike.
“I felt that coaching rugby was a good way of also giving to my community. I started initially with my own sons and their friends in under 7s, 9s, 11s, and before progressing into 16s, 18s and now seniors.
“I have begun coaching more recently with representative teams and premiers.
“I have coached a lot of youth rugby at local and provincial level, more recently with premier teams.”
Arona, who has a Level Two certificate of coaching from the Auckland Rugby Union, acknowledges the job he is stepping into is one that comes with a great deal of responsibility, and that there are a number of areas that need to be improved.
“Relationships between the various Cook Islands Rugby communities will be one area that I think can be improved. An accurate database of information would be another, and unfortunately finances will always be a thorn in our sides.
“Communication and dialogue is pivotal and needs to be better. We have fantastic Cook Island folks serving in our rugby initiatives, but the wider community needs to be more informed and proactive.”
One area that he is confident in is the players who will fill out the roster, some of whom he says are “biting at the bit” to get involved.
Appointed alongside Arona was Matthew Mullany, the hooker for the national team, who will serve alongside him as manager.
“Mat is a very capable and tough rugby player with plenty of international experience. As a player he has endured some highs and some lows, so his experiences in those situations will be invaluable in managing the players.
“Mat’s experience in his day job is also very impressive, as he brings organisational expertise, management skills, budgeting prowess into the role with very professional attitude and edge. He is visionary, meticulous and boast a real strength in forecasting and managing huge projects.
“I am very excited with Mat’s appointment.”
Although he was chosen only a few months out from the tournament, Arona is not using that as an excuse for a free pass.
“Yes, we are a bit underdone for time and therefore preparation for this campaign, but I owe it to the Cook Island community to set expectations in place. We must set expectations that we will qualify for a JWC Trophy placing if not next year, definitely 2019.
“I want for every athlete to have an expectation that is high and for them to pursue it with a passion and desire to achieve it.”