Sport in the Cook Islands
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Rugby league is the most popular sport in the Cook Islands, with soccer and rugby union as the next most popular/played sports. In September 2009, the Cook Islands hosted the 2009 Pacific Mini Games. Cook Islands Sports National Olympic Committee is the official governing body of sport in the Cook Islands. www.cookislandssports.com
Types of football
Rugby league is the most popular sport in the Cook Islands. The Cook Islands were introduced to rugby league in 1988, when the Cook Islands national rugby league team played their first match against the New Zealand Maori team. In the mid-1990s, rugby league in the Cook Islands received significant funding through the SuperLeague organisation; however, money from this source is no longer available.
The greatest event in the history of Cook Islands rugby league – and probably Cook Islands sport more generally – was the victory in the 1995 Emerging Nations Rugby League World Cup, held in the United Kingdom. Cook Islands emerged victorious 22-6 over Ireland in the Final held at Gigg Lane, Bury, on 24 October 1995.
In more recent times, the Cook Islands national rugby league team has received a major boost through the involvement of former professional rugby league players Kevin Iro and Matt Rua (both native Cook Islanders), in the form of selector and defensive coach for the national side. Both players represented New Zealand internationally and played many National Rugby League games. Rugby league also receives much time on television in the Cook Islands, with four NRL games shown per week, fuelling the popularity of the sport amongst the islanders.
The Cook Islands national rugby league team made their senior World Cup debut in 2000 and played in their second world cup in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup. They will compete again in the 2021 Rugby League World Cup in England.
Association football (soccer)
The Cook Islands Football Association is the governing body of football in the Cook Islands. The Cook Islands Round Cup is the top division in the Cook Islands, and the Cook Islands Cup is the top knock-out tournament.
Footballers of Cook Islands descent
The following list includes players of various codes of football. These include:
- Pekahou Cowan
- Robbie Fruean
- Carl Hoeft
- Tafai Ioasa
- James Kamana
- Johnny Leota
- Aaron Mauger
- Nathan Mauger
- Craig McGrath
- Ryan Nicholas
- Henry Paul
- Robbie Paul
- Rene Ranger
- Stephen Setephano
- Teddy Stanaway
- Lima Sopoaga
- Stan Wright
Cricket is played on Rarotonga, and some of the outer islands (where the rules are often similar to the sport of Samoan cricket or kirikiti). Most villages have teams and they compete in a league, following the end of the soccer season. It is popular among the older generation.
Women's netball is a very popular sport in the Cook Islands, and the country has one of the world's top 10 teams, which competed in the 2007 Netball World Cup.