Five local teams have registered for the annual Cook Islands Rugby League Nines Tournament which will be held next weekend.
Defending champions Tupapa Panthers will be back to defend their title in the two day tournament starting on Friday at the National Stadium in Nikao.
The other local clubs registered for the tournament are domestic league champions Ngatangiia/Matavera Sea Eagles, Avatiu Eels, Arorangi Bears and Titikaveka Bulldogs.
Cook Islands Rugby League competition coordinator Tai Nelio said they were hoping to receive confirmation from Takuvaine Warriors and Aitutaki Sharks on their participation this week.
Nelio said they were also hoping for an overseas team in this year’s tournament.
“Takuvaine Warriors and Aitutaki Sharks have not register, hopefully they will in the next few days and not miss this exciting event,” he said.
“The Queensland Kukis voiced their participation and we look forward to seeing them at this 2020 Nines tournament.
“Unfortunately the Tokoroa Cooks team has pulled out due to some financial issues but will ready themselves for the 2021 Nines.”
The Queensland Kukis won the title in 2018 after beating Arorangi Bears in the final.
But they lost the title to Tupapa Panthers who smashed them 41-15 in the 2019 Nines final.
The Darren Piri-coached Panthers ran rampant, scoring eight tries to Kukis’ three. They will be hoping to repeat the feat in next week’s tournament.
However it will not be easy for the Panthers especially with the Sea Eagles dominating the 2019 season with a historic unbeaten win.
Former champions Eels will also be hoping to reclaim their title after struggling to find form in the past two seasons.
Meanwhile the 2020 Nines will be a historic event as organisers have included local women who have registered two teams Town and Country.
“Managers and coaches of both teams have already started their training and preparation,” Nelio said.
“This is really great and exciting and this is what it’s all about. Supporting and promoting our women’s game of rugby league.”
The Nines tournament is eyed as a build-up for the domestic league season which is expected to start in February.
“Asking all fans and supporters to come along to support their teams and witness this great game of rugby league kick start the Cook Islands sports of the year 2020,” Nelio said.