13 Dec 2017

Sport: Cook Islands buoyed by "perfect" return to international netball

1:07 pm on 13 December 2017

The Cook Islands netball team are reflecting on a "perfect tournament" after an unbeaten run at the Nations Cup in Singapore.

The Black Pearls beat Swaziland 39-38 in a hard-fought final at the weekend to make it six straight wins.

The Cook Islands finished unbeaten at the Nations Cup.

The Cook Islands finished unbeaten at the Nations Cup. Photo: Netball Singapore

They also beat the African side during the group stage and proved too strong for Malaysia, Hong Kong, Ireland and Singapore.

Coach Dale Atkinson said after more than two years away from the international game the team has renewed confidence.

"It was a perfect result and the other countries all had a ranking - Singapore being the highest with 19 - so we were pretty happy, naturally, with the outcome," she said.

"Of course we've got two more games to go before we formally get a ranking and hopefully we're looking to do that for the World (Cup) qualifiers in April next year."

"I know they kind of call it a second-tier tournament but that's what we want - you want to start building at that level - so it was a great opportunity," reflected Atkinson.

"It was also an opportunity for us to play different styles - Ireland (from the) Northern Hemisphere, Swaziland being African and then of course the Asian countries.

"So it was a really broad group of teams and from that aspect the experience and knowledge that we've gained for me as a coach as well as the players has been huge."

Cook Islands GK Anania Pauleen Piri leaps high v Swaziland

The Cook Islands rose above Swaziland in the group stage and grand final. Photo: Netball Singapore

Only three players had previously represented the senior Cook Islands team and Dale Atkinson said they worked hard to build a strong culture in camp and competition over the last few months.

"When you work a lot on the team aspects so that the girls can bond and we had a big age gap - the youngest being 16 and the oldest 35 - so we worked hard on that and all of the game-plan structure.

"I think because their confidence is up now and they believe in what they're capable of achieving I think that we're in a really good space and the key is to actually build on that."

Dale Atkinson said the Oceania World Cup qualifiers are expected to take place in Auckland in April, following the Commonwealth Games.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs