13 Oct 2015

Sport: NRL clubs still making it difficult for Pacific

12:41 pm on 13 October 2015

The Cook Islands rugby league coach Alex Chan says NRL clubs are continuing to make it difficult for smaller nations to pick their best team.

The Kukis face Tonga at Campbelltown Stadium this Saturday for a spot at the 2017 World Cup.

It's the first time the Cook Islands have played a full international since competing at the last World Cup two years ago.

The Cook Islands team at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.

The Cook Islands team at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Head coach Alex Chan says there's a handful of players that wanted to play for the Cook Islands this weekend, and that he wanted to select, but were pressured by their NRL clubs to make themselves unavailable.

"If anyone's to pay the consequence it's the players. A lot of the time the choice is taken away from them. I'd like to think the choices are made by the players but when a club turns around and says, for example, "I'm not real keen on you playing. You can go ahead but you jeopardise [you future with the club]" - when they start saying things like that then the players are starting to get spooked and worried about future selections and future contracts with their bread and butter. I think it's unfair on the player more than anyone, especially when they're so passionate about representing their people."

Matt Parish voiced similar concerns last year and Alex Chan says he can fully understand where the Toa Samoa coach was coming from.

Despite some players being unavailable, Chan says he's looking forward to some of their younger, lesser-known names stepping up to the challenge this weekend.