The Cook Islands rugby league coach Alex Chan believes the team has a bright future despite failing to qualify for the next World Cup.
The Kukis were outclassed 28-8 by Tonga in a winner-takes-all World Cup qualifying match at the weekend, in their first full international fixture for two years.
Two thirds of the Cook Islands squad were on test debut and Alex Chan says he's incredibly proud of their performance.
"We're really really happy with the way our boys competed and I know that we're much the wiser, much more experienced for the game. I know there's a lot of guys there that's the highest level of football they've played to date. I know for sure that they've walked away from that test much the wiser [and] know now what to expect: not just for the game but for the whole week. I thought everything leading up to it was great, it was just unluckily we were beaten by a more experienced team".
Alex Chan says he's optimistic the Kukis can arrange more regular test matches in the next year or two, or possibly be a part of a revised Pacific Cup format.