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Anticipation is building for the Riverside Stadium hosting a Rugby League World Cup clash between the Cook Islands men’s team and Tonga on October 30. Tickets are on sale here. Keep an eye on our blog to see what the Kukis squad has been up to across the region here!

The Big One

It was a tough day out for the Cook Islands but a great day at the Riverside Stadium on Sunday (30 October) as more than 8,000 watched the Kukis take on Tonga.

Tonga beat our guests 92-10 in a high scoring encounter. But there was plenty of pride to take from the campaign. It brings to an end the Cook Islands challenge at the RLWC but their impact in the Tees Valley will live on!

Historical link

Cook Island stars also took a look around one of the Tees Valley’s landmark museums and exchanged gifts,

The Cook Islands squad visited The Captain Cook Birthplace Museum, in Marton. The team visit was presented with gifts – including a quilt in welcome presentation with schoolchildren from Marton Manor Primary School. A shirt was exchanged in return and the side took part in a cake-cutting ceremony for Captain Cook’s 294th birthday.

Polynesians arrived in Rarotonga – the most populous of the Cook Islands – in around 800 AD. Marton-born Captain Cook visited in 1773 and mapped much of the islands in the following years. It’s thought a Russian Admiral named them the Cook Islands in 1823 in honour of the famous captain.

Memories to last a lifetime 

Players from the team visited the Herlingshaw Centre in South Bank. The multi-sports facility is run by MFC Foundation, and boasts a 3G 7-a-side indoor pitch, three outdoor grass pitches and a full size outdoor 3G pitch, as well as function rooms and a classrooms.

Cook Islanders got to play show youngsters some tag rugby on their visit.

The next generation

Bringing on future stars was the aim as the Cook Islands squad took on another pair of school visits across the Tees Valley.

Springfield Academy, in Darlington, and St Margaret’s Middlesbrough hosted team members for coaching sessions to learn more about the game.

Our guests will take on Papua New Guinea on Tuesday evening (25 October).


What a start!

Our guests have made a terrific start in their opening RWLC clash against Wales. The Cook Islands came from behind to edge their opener 18-12 at Leigh Sports Village.

Tries from Anthony Gelling, prop Davvy Moale and Steve Marsters saw the Kukis overcome Wales – with the latter kicking twice to seal the victory. Having trailed 12-8 at the break, the side came out with fierce intent in the second half using their size and strength to good effect.

It all means the Cook Islands find themselves second in Group D as they look to progress from this stage for the first time. Next up is Papua New Guinea in Warrington on Tuesday, 25 October, before their Riverside contest against Tonga next Saturday (30 October).


First contest

The Cook Islands make their world cup bow this week. The Kukis will face Wales on Wednesday (19 October) at Leigh. The squad will then return to the region later this week for two school visits this Friday. Watch this space!

Gearing up

Darlington Mowden Park hosted the Kukis for an open training session on Thursday morning (13 October). And schoolchildren got a sneak peek at the team’s preparations as their first fixture edges nearer.

More than 200 people turned out to take a look including pupils from St Aidan’s Academy, Darlington, St John’s Church of England Academy, Bishop Barrington Academy, Bishop Auckland, and Hopefields.

Cross-ball shootout

There was also a meeting of worlds at Rockliffe on Thursday (13 October) in a “cross-ball” challenge. Middlesbrough FC Academy players took on the islanders in a penalty shoot-out with a twist.

The rugby players got their chance to try out their skills with a spherical ball, while the Boro young guns attempted to get a rugby ball past the Cook Islanders.

Our visitors then got a tour of the club’s training ground and facilities.

Getting stuck in

Children at Chandlers Ridge Academy, Nunthorpe, also had a day to remember with the Cook Islands squad learning all about tag rugby.

Team coach Tony Iro will take his side to begin their Group D campaign against Wales on 19 October in Leigh.

The art of quilting

Youngsters from Marton Manor Primary School have embraced the islands’ culture! They’ve helped in creating a traditional Tivaevae Quilt this week.

Tivaevae are often markers of important life events – and they’re offered up to important visitors or as special gifts. The quilt will be presented to the Cook Islands squad on 27 October when the team visits the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum.

Gifts and thanks

Two wonderful interpretations of the Cook Islands and rugby were gifted to the squad by Ruby and Alex from Junction Farm which local designer Abby + Owen finessed into the artwork. 

The squad also received a gift from Gillian and Susan from Community Integrated Care. They are proud to be the Official Social Care Partner of the Rugby League World Cup. 

What a welcome!

Yarm Wolves ARLFC, Yarm School Brass Band and pupils from Junction Farm Primary School welcomed the Cook Islands on Tuesday (11 October) with the country’s national anthem and flags.

After a presentation of gifts and a Q&A session, the Kukis offered everyone a spectacular view of their Haka on the grounds of Rockliffe Hall.

The team will be based at the five star hotel for the next three weeks with training sessions at Mowden Park RFC. Tickets for the Tonga fixture are available here – RLWC2021 | Official Tickets


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