19 Oct 2016

Sport: Cooks women upset despite Rugby League World Cup spot

3:03 pm on 19 October 2016

The Cook Islands have qualified for the Women's Rugby League World Cup but team officials are disappointed after investing significant funds into a qualifying tournament that never took place.

Fiji, Samoa and Tonga withdrew a day out from Saturday's Pacific qualifying event in Sydney because of a lack of playing numbers, leaving the Cook Islands to claim the sixth and final World Cup berth.

The Cook Islands Rugby League President, Charles Carlson, said he heard rumours on Friday that the other teams had pulled out but did not inform the players as he wanted to hear it from official sources.

"The girls were quite disappointed in a way because we were all very well prepared for this game when we found out that the other three teams had defaulted the game," he said.

"We still got dress and turned up to the field and just announced to the girls that we weren't playing but we had the two officials from the Rugby League International Federation to confirm that Cook Islands has been appointed as the sixth placing on the World Cup."

The Cook Islands have qualified for the Women's Rugby League World Cup.

The Cook Islands have qualified for the Women's Rugby League World Cup. Photo: Facebook / Ozzy Cooks Rugby League

Charles Carlson said the Cook Islands women had played a warm-up fixture against their Fijian counterparts two weeks ago.

"Fiji actually had a team there and we also had a team but it wasn't sort of the best team and the other teams were struggling to get a team but we managed to pull a team together," he said.

"It's a bit unclear what happened to (the Fiji players from that game) and Tonga was in the process of putting a team, and so was Samoa, so I don't know really what happened.

The qualifying tournament had already been postponed a week to allow the teams more time to find players.

President of Cook Islands Rugby League Charles Carlson (far right).

Charles Carlson. Photo: RNZI / Vinnie Wylie

Charles Carlson said the Cook Islands flew six players over from New Zealand while Fiji, Samoa and Tonga were only planning to use Australian-based players.

"This was a very short notice and I can understand where the other teams are coming from, with no finance to assist with the games. We basically had to look for sponsors and do a bit of quick fundraising to get our girls together," he said.

"There was some disagreement along the way that (it was a ) short time and no finance for the World Cup but we all agreed to set the date and just go for it - we were the only one that came to the party."

The Cook Islands are the final team to confirm their place at next year's Women's Rugby League World Cup, which will be played in Sydney, alongside New Zealand, Australia, England, Papua New Guinea and Canada.