In this series, I’ll name what I think are the greatest teams of all time from some of our Pacific Rim neighbours. Today, the focus is on the Cook Islands, and the only criteria for selection is that the selected player must have appeared in at least one Test for the Cook Islands.
Here’s the team. Appearances for the Cook Islands are in brackets.
1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (3)
Always a reliable performer at the back, strong in defence and brings the ball off his own line with 100 per cent commitment every time. He has also played three Tests for New Zealand.
2. Jordan Rapana (3)
One of the hardest wingers in the game to contain and really plays the game with his heart on his sleeve. He topped the NRL try scoring list in 2016 and has played 11 Tests for NZ.
3. Kevin Iro (4)
A true legend of the game who played a total of 344 first grade games, scoring 175 tries, as well as 34 Tests for NZ. He represented the Cook Islands in the 2000 World Cup and played a World Cup qualifier for them in 2006 at the age of 38.
He was a sensation in England, where he won five Challenge Cup finals and two Super League titles.
4. Anthony Gelling (8)
A very good outside back who represented the Cook Islands between 2009 and 2019. He also won a Super League title with St Helens in 2016.
5. Dominique Peyroux (8)
An effective player either in the outside backs or at the back of the scrum, and has also played three Tests for Samoa. He won two Super League premierships with St Helens.
6. Brad Takairangi (7)
Takairangi is one of those great club men who can slot in anywhere on the field and do an excellent job. A big and surprisingly mobile player, he represented the Cook Islands between 2009 to 2019, has played four Tests for NZ, and should shortly pass the 200 first grade game mark.
7. Isaac John (5)
Hardly a household name but has been a very solid performer for the Cook Islands, particularly in the 2013 World Cup. He also played off the bench for NZ in the 2014 ANZAC Test.
8. Francis Molo (2)
A damaging ball runner and strong defender who has now also established himself in the Queensland Origin team.
9. Ali Davys (3)
Played his first game for the Cook Islands in 1995, and his last in 2006, and was a clever half or hooker.
10. Zane Tetevano (5)
The big front rower has a high workrate and plenty of experience in the big time, with nearly 130 games in the top grade, a premiership in 2018 with the Roosters, and three Tests for New Zealand.
11. Alex Glenn (c) (2)
One of the best in the business when at his peak and an ideal leader. Played 285 games for the Broncos in a 13-year career and has played a dozen Tests for the Kiwis.
12. Tepai Moeroa (1)
A big, destructive forward who is very hard to contain. He has played 116 first grade games to date and also spent some time playing union with the NSW Waratahs.
13. Marata Nuikore (3)
A powerful ball runner and rugged defender who can play either in the back row or in the centres.
14. Sam Mataoru (8)
A giant of a man who has represented the Cook Islands on a regular basis between 2009 and 2019, including once as their starting halfback!
15. Dylan Napa (3)
He represented the Cook Islands in the 2013 World Cup, has played nearly 180 first grade games and seven Origins for Queensland, but has let poor discipline stop him playing to his potential.
16. Tinirau Arona (9)
A strong forward who has notched up over 200 games in the top grade and currently plies his trade with Wakefield Trinity.
17. Esan Marsters (2)
A big, hard-running centre now in his sixth season in the top grade, and to date has played over 80 first grade games and six Tests for NZ.
This is a handy team with a big forward pack and a couple of classy outside backs. Their biggest weakness is their spine.
So, what do you think? Are there any players unlucky not to make the team?
And how would this team go?