“They felt they would come up short of players. You had other injury concerns, other players with club commitments … they didn’t want to send a half-strength side or cap non-Kiwi players for the sake of getting a game.”
NEW Zealand rugby league officials should pay the Cook Islands significant compensation for cancelling last week’s Test match, according to a local sponsor who says the decision cost the small country a quarter of a million dollars.
Chris McInley, a local sportswear manufacturer, says he was told he was not welcome at the hastily arranged replacement game because of his public criticism of New Zealand and Cook Islands officials.
“The whole country will be hurt by this,” McInley, who has thousands of dollars worth of T-Shirts and other merchandise for the cancelled game, tells RLW.
“Would a professional organisation – and I don’t think the New Zealand Rugby League are professional – cancel a Test match eight days before it was to be played?
“Then we organised for Ricky Stuart to come here and promote the game after they called the Test off and the Cook Islands Rugby League said ‘no’. Why would you say no to that?
“They should have at least sent Benji Marshall here.”
McInley questioned a list released by the New Zealand Rugby League of 29 players unavailable for the game. “Of the injured players on the list, all of them – bar Frank Pritchard who’s decided to go with Samoa – are now miraculously available for selection,” he said.
“They’re not coming back. I don’t know if they ever intended to come.”
CIRL boss Kevin Iro played down the drama, saying: “At the end of the day if you look at all three Warriors grades making the grand final and you look at the Kiwi makeup now – I think there’s nine Warriors make the Kiwis.
The NZRL asked for – and received – an NZ$40,000 upgrade for the CIC Stadium as well as new lights ahead of lights as a condition of travelling to Rarotonga.
“There was a contract – but it was two pages and is not enforcible,” said McInley.
“We were going to have a big fundraising dinner with NRL jerseys auctioned off to raise money for the game here. They had already slaughtered the pigs – that’s how late the decision was.
“Have you met Jim Doyle? He is the CEO of the New Zealand Rugby League and he is a very wealthy man. He sold the Navman (GPS) business for a fortune. For him to just sit in his office and Auckland and call this off….
“They should reimberse us some money, that’s what they should do, to help us get to the 2013 World Cup. Not only has this hurt the Cook Islands Rugby League but it has all the sponsors pissed off with the Cook Islands Rugby League.”
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK