We’re creating the strongest possible line-ups for every nation ahead of the World Cup, in collaboration with He Can Play For. This week, it’s Cook Islands!
In these weekly feature pieces, we are selecting the strongest possible side who can represent Cook Islands. This can include players born in that country, with heritage to the nation or even residency.
The first two were France and Jamaica. Now it is time for the Cook Islands…
1. Valentine Holmes
Holmes was born in Australia to a Cook Islander mother and a New Zealander father.
The 26-year-old has won 13 caps for birth country Australia but would be allowed to switch allegiances to the Cook Islands as they aren’t a tier one nation. He would not be allowed to represent New Zealand due to them being a tier one country. Australia, New Zealand and England are the only tier one nations.
2. Jordan Rapana
Rapana was born in New Zealand and is of Maori, Cook Islands and Italian descent.
The 32-year-old made his debut for the Cook Islands in the 2013 World Cup. He switched allegiances to represent the Kiwis in 2016, where he has since played 11 games. Rapana played for New Zealand at the last World Cup in 2017, but could he switch back to represent the Kukis?
3. Brad Takairangi
Takairangi was born in Australia and is of New Zealander and Cook Islands descent.
The Hull KR utility made his international debut for the Cook Islands in 2009 and played in the 2013 World Cup. Like Rapana, Takairangi switched allegiances to New Zealand for the 2017 World Cup. The 32-year-old has won seven caps for the Cook Islands and four for New Zealand.
4. Esan Marsters
Marsters was born in Auckland, New Zealand and is of Cook Islands and Maori heritage.
The 25-year-old made his international debut for the Cook Islands in a test against Tonga in 2015. Marsters switched allegiance to New Zealand in 2018, winning six caps for the Kiwis. He has also played for the Maori All Stars four times. Marsters would certainly bolster the Cook Islands backline if he decided to represent his roots again.
5. Kayal Iro
The 22-year-old is the son of former player Kevi Iro and nephew of the Cook Islands coach Tony Iro.
Iro grew up in Rarotonga in the Cook Islands before moving to Auckland at the age of 14. The Newtown Jets star back made his international debut for his country in 2019.
6. Johnathon Ford
The 32-year-old was born in Australia and is of Cook Island and Irish descent.
Ford has been one of the best players in the Championship for several years now whilst plying his trade for Toulouse. The former Sydney Roosters playmaker has recently joined promotion-chasing Featherstone. Ford has won seven caps for the Cook Islands and featured in the 2013 World Cup.
7. Troy Dargan
Dargan is of Cook Island and Indigenous Australian heritage.
The 24-year-old made two NRL appearances for South Sydney Rabbitohs in 2020 and is currently playing for Manly Sea Eagles’ feeder club Blacktown Workers in the New South Wales Cup. Dargan played for the Cook Islands in their World Cup qualification wins over South Africa and the USA.
8. Dylan Napa
Napa was born in Brisbane to a Cook Islander father and an Australian mother.
The 29-year-old made his international debut for the Cook Islands in the 2013 World Cup. He has since gone on to play seven games for Queensland in the State of Origin arena. Napa joined Super League side Catalans Dragons ahead of this season.
9. Aaron Teroi
The 26-year-old made his international debut for the Cook Islands in 2015. He was won two caps for the Kukis and represented the nation in the Nines World Cup in 2019.
Teroi came through the ranks at NRL giants Melbourne Storm but didn’t make an NRL appearance. He spent two seasons with Newcastle Thunder in England between 2016-17. He currently plays for the Central Queensland Capras in the Queensland Cup.
10. James Tamou
Tamou was born in New Zealand and is of Maori, Cook Islander and Danish background.
The 33-year-old actually played for Australia 13 times on the international stage though after moving to the country when he was 13. He is eligible to switch allegiance to the Cook Islands as they are a tier two nation. Could we see the Wests Tigers prop pull on a Kukis jersey this autumn?
11. Kenny Edwards
The 32-year-old was born in New Zealand and is of Maori and Cook Island descent.
Edwards has only ever played for the Combined Nations All Stars on the representative scene, helping Tim Sheens’ side beat England last June. Edwards represented the Junior Kiwis and Australian Schoolboys in the junior age groups. Could we see the Castleford forward make his international debut this autumn?
12. TC Robati
The 20-year-old is one of the hottest prospects in the NRL right now.
Robati was born in New Zealand and is of Cook Islander and Maori descent. He has also represented the Maori All Stars and is already a first team regular for the Brisbane Broncos.
13. Dom Peyroux
Peyroux was born in New Zealand to a father of Cook Island and French descent and a mother of Samoan and Solomon Island heritage.
The Toulouse forward has represented both Samoa and the Cook Islands on the international stage. He was part of the Kukis squad for the 2013 World Cup and has won eight caps for the nation. He has played three games for Samoa and was part of their squad for the 2014 Four Nations.
14. Francis Molo
Molo was born in New Zealand but moved to Australia when he was 10 months old. He is of Samoan and Cook Island descent.
The St George Illawarra Dragons prop made his international debut for the Cook Islands in 2015, winning two caps. He also represented Queensland in State of Origin in 2021.
15. Zane Tetevano
The Leeds prop was born in New Zealand and is of Cook Island and Maori descent.
Tetevano has represented both New Zealand and the Cook Islands in the international arena. He made his international bow for the Kukis in 2009 and played for them in the 2013 World Cup. He switched allegiance to the Kiwis in 2019, winning three caps. Is a return to the Kukis on the cards for Tetevano in 2022?
16. Marata Niukore
The 25-year-old has won three caps for the Cook Islands since making his international debut in 2017.
Niukore has made almost 100 appearances for Parramatta Eels in the NRL since 2018. Niukore will move to birth country New Zealand in 2023 to link up with the Warriors.
17. Makahesi Makatoa
The 29-year-old was born in New Zealand and is of Niuean and Cook Islander descent.
Makatoa has played three games for the Cook Islands after making his international bow in 2015. He played 25 games for Featherstone in 2019 before moving back Down Under. He is currently part of the Parramatta Eels squad in the NRL.