Instalment two of the World Cup previews and this time, it’s the Cook Islands, a promising and determined Island nation in rugby league.
Their team is as follows:
Tinirau Arona (Sydney Roosters), Sam Brunton (Mounties Bundy), Daniel Fepuleai (North Sydney Bears), Jonathan Ford (Toulouse Olympique XIII), Anthony Gelling (Wigan Warriors), Isaac John (Penrith Panthers), Drury Low (Canterbury Bulldogs), Keith Lulia (Bradford Bulls), Lulia Lulia (Shellharbour), Hikule’o Malu (New Zealand Warriors), Sam Mataora (Canberra Raiders), Junior Matapuku (North Sydney Bears), Dylan Napa (Sydney Roosters), Dominique Peyroux (New Zealand Warriors), Rea Pittman (Cronulla Sharks), Jordan Rapana (Canberra Raiders), Tupou Sopoaga (Cronulla Sharks), Zeb Taia (Catalan Dragons), Brad Takairangi (Gold Coast Titans), Adam Tangata (Mounties Bundy), Chris Taripo (Sydney Roosters), Zane Tetevano (Newcastle Knights) & Tyrone Viiga (Parramatta Eels).
Whilst not a star-studded team, there are players that have played first-grade consistently for in the side, with the experience of Keith Lulia, Taia and Takairangi crucial for the Cook Islands side to have a chance of competing with teams in the group.
Couple some other solid first-graders that have all played in Gelling, John, Napa and Peyroux, the side is balanced enough and experienced enough first-grade wise to know what is required of them in the World Cup. Budding youngsters have also been given a chance to represent their country, with the likes of Malu, Pittman, Taripo & Viiga all selected and raring to go.
For any player playing for the Cook Islands, it is about pride in their country and pride in their jersey. To pull on a Cook Islands jersey for these players is a fantastic achievement and one they take immense satisfaction in and one they are honoured to don.
With just the USA and Wales in their group – two decent opponents – gaining passage to the next round won’t be easy but they’ll be looking for their experienced players to help them reach that level.
Overall, whilst it is possible for them to come out of their group if they play to their ability and perform to their potential as a team and as individuals, the lack of experienced halves and a balance across the board probably prevents them from going any further than the first knock-out stage.
Regardless of that, they’re a promising side with a lot of young players and down the track, they will only improve and get better – something Cook Islands fans can be excited to see and watch.
Here’s the line-up I’d go with:
1. Drury Low
2. Chris Taripo
3. Keith Lulia
4. Rea Pittman
5. Jordan Rapana
6. Jonathan Ford
7. Isaac John
8. Sam Mataora
9. Hikule’o Malu
10. Dylan Napa
11. Brad Takairangi
12. Tupou Sopoaga
13. Zeb Taia
14. Tinirau Arona
15. Zane Tetevano
16. Anthony Gelling
17. Dominique Peyroux