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The Cook Islands Women's Rugby League 9s struck gold at the Pacific Games.

Photo/Cook Islands Sports


Pacific Games: Cook Islands Women’s 9s nightmare journey before historic gold medal

Natalia Short spoke to the PMN Cooks team on the many obstacles it took to get to the Solomon Islands.

Matt Manukuo
Matt Manukuo
29 November 2023, 11:12am
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It took an extra thirty hours of travel to get to the Pacific Games, but it wasn’t enough to knock the Cook Islands Women’s Rugby League 9s team off course from winning the gold medal.

Landing in Auckland from Rarotonga, the team were intending to head to Nadi the next day en route to Honiara in the Solomon Islands.

“We (the management staff) were checking in, and then literally five minutes later they said the flight was canceled,” says team manager Natalia Short.

“The management, Wally, Charles and I went straight to the counter to try to get on the next flight to get to Nadi, but they already started filling up the other flights.”

Carter says the group of 25 were determined to stay together, rather than be separated on different flights.

“We looked at possibly every single option available to get to Nadi for our connecting flight.”


Carter maps out the original flight plan for the team which would see them fly from Rarotonga to Auckland, Auckland to Nadi and then to Honiara. Only two of those flights were possible.

“We had to go to Nadi and miss our connecting flight which was really tough. We tried contacting every single person we knew, the PM’s office, foreign affairs, family and friends who have been working for Fiji Airways.

“We honestly tried to exercise every single option!”

Carter praises the team's travel agent, who was constantly looking for options to get to Honiara. Despite possible flights that would get the team over periodically, she says the management team decided to stick together.

“We were worried one disruption could lead to another, and having players split or delayed flights, we didn’t want to risk further stress and worry for the team.

“It was a long day. We rushed to Qantas to try to check in for a flight, their system went down briefly, but we managed to get on a flight to Canberra.

“Then from Canberra we flew to Brisbane for an overnight stay. And finally from Brisbane to the Solomons.”

Carter thanks the communities in Canberra and Brisbane for their hospitality during the team’s layovers in each city. She says despite the extra thirty hours of travel, the team’s resilience was echoed in the result.

“It was very testing and tiring, but man this team is very resilient! Not once did they complain.

“Just getting there was a mammoth mission and it took so much passion, resilience, prayer and blessings to get here.’

The Cook Islands Women’s Rugby League 9s team went on to win the gold at the Pacific Games against tournament favorites Tonga womens 16 - 8 to win gold.