June 21, 2024

Joey Manu has facilitated a meaningful gesture towards rugby league by teaming up with the Sydney Roosters to collaborate with Cook Islands Rugby League. This partnership aims to provide free-to-air coverage of Roosters matches in the Pacific nation for the rest of the season.

Despite rugby league’s popularity in the Cook Islands, many residents have been unable to watch NRL matches. Even Kevin Iro, one of the country’s most esteemed players, could only keep up with games via Facebook, missing out on moments like his son Kayal’s debut try for the Sharks a few weeks ago.

Now, thanks to the initiative spearheaded by the Roosters, this situation is set to change. The club has committed to sponsoring one match per week to be broadcasted on Cook Islands TV. This gesture not only honors Manu but also celebrates other players of Cook Islands descent who have represented the Roosters, including Tony Iro, Zane Tetevano, Dylan Napa, Tinirau Arona, and siblings Brad and Kiana Takairangi.

Starting with Thursday’s traditional Anzac Day clash against the Dragons, Cook Islands residents will now have access to Roosters matches via CITV, including NRLW games starting from July 25.

Zane Tetevano and Joey Manu celebrate winning the 2018 grand final with Sydney Roosters

Roosters CEO Joe Kelly expressed the club’s excitement in aiding the inspiration of the next generation of Cook Islands rugby league enthusiasts. This includes honoring Manu, the recipient of the 2022 IRL Golden Boot award, who will depart at the end of the season for a venture into Japanese rugby union.

“Our club has a proud tradition of supporting the growth of rugby league both at home and abroad through our League of Roosters Program,” Kelly remarked. “We eagerly anticipate backing Cook Islands Rugby League to bring the excitement of our sport into Cook Islands households throughout the remainder of the 2024 NRL and NRLW seasons.”

The sponsorship arrangement, whereby the Roosters are covering the expenses for CITV to broadcast matches, stemmed from a visit to the Cook Islands in March by Roy Masters, the coach of the 1985 Dragons grand final team and a renowned journalist who also coached the Western Suburbs Magpies.

During his visit, Masters attended local matches where the Deputy Prime Minister of the nation, Albert Nicholas, served as the ground announcer. Masters subsequently engaged with Roosters Chairman Nick Politis and CEO Kelly regarding the coverage of NRL and NRLW matches in the Cook Islands.

Cook Islands Rugby League Chairman Charles Carlson expressed gratitude for the Roosters’ support, emphasizing the significant impact it will have on the development of the sport in the island nation.

“It was a pleasure to reconnect with Roy Masters, and his assistance in securing support from the Roosters has been invaluable,” Carlson remarked.

“Joe Kelly reached out to me after Roy mentioned the lack of NRL games in our region. The Roosters’ decision to sponsor their matches, including the NRL finals, for free-to-air broadcast in the Cook Islands is tremendous news for us.

“Sourcing sponsors has been challenging due to our limited private sector, making it difficult to sustain our efforts. This initiative by the Roosters to sponsor their games is a fantastic gesture, and we are grateful to Cook Islands TV for facilitating the live broadcast to homes across Raratonga, the main island.

“Rugby league is the dominant sport in the Cook Islands, and the absence of NRL games was a genuine concern for us. With the Roosters’ support, we anticipate a significant boost in support for the sport.”

The local league comprises five clubs – the Panthers, Bulldogs, Sea Eagles, Eels, and Bears – with plans underway to establish a new team known as the Roosters.

“It’s likely that the establishment of a Roosters team will be discussed in the near future,” Carlson added.

He also expressed optimism about the potential return of 27-year-old Manu, who has represented the Kiwis in 17 Tests, to the Cook Islands rugby league fold. Manu’s return, along with the prospect of players like Val Holmes, Jordan Rapana, and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad representing the nation, could inspire further participation.

“We hope to see Joey playing for us, as there is talk that he is interested in representing the Cook Islands,” Carlson noted. “Securing players like Joey, along with the likes of Valentine Holmes, could pave the way for others to follow suit.”

Cook Islands captain Brad Takairangi is among the former Roosters players to represent the Pacific nation.

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