Cooks trying to mould

Many of Katoa’s players are based in the outer islands of the country or in New Zealand so he hardly ever sees them all on the pitch at the same time.
“It’s quite hard for us to get the girls together,” he says. “The ones from the islands joined us last week and then we met up with the girls based here when we arrived. Now we are just trying to mould them all together as a unit.
“It’s an 11 vs 11 game, we don’t want it to be 11 vs eight or nine because we are not working together properly.”
The Cook Islands face Tahiti in their first match of the OFC Women’s Nations Cup on Wednesday afternoon and Katoa admits he does not know much about his side’s first-up opponents.
“We know New Zealand very well and are aware of how they will try to play – we’ll just have to try to counter them. But the other teams in the group, Tahiti and Vanuatu, I don’t really know anything about.”
While he is unfamiliar with the opposition, Katoa knows all about Auckland and Nations Cup venue North Harbour Stadium. He was in charge of the Cook Islands side that took part in the OFC U-20 Women’s Championship at the same ground in January and is pleased to be back.
But he says the side is not in Auckland for a holiday.
“We didn’t come here just to participate, we want to do well.”
To achieve that aim, Katoa has put his faith in the enthusiasm and talent of a promising batch of youngsters.
He has brought 13 members of the U-20 squad, including top scorer Regina Mustonen, back to Auckland with him and is expecting them to make the step up to senior level.
“It doesn’t matter what age they are, they’re playing in a women’s tournament now so they have to step up. The reason we selected them is because we think they are capable of doing it, now it’s just a matter of showing that.”
If the nucleus of the squad can remain in place for the next few years, Katoa believes the future looks bright for the women’s game in the Cook Islands.
“A lot of our players go to New Zealand or Australia and just disappear,” he says.
“But if we can retain this lot then five or six years down the line we’ll be more competitive. But it’s up to the girls to stick to it and we’ll be doing our best to keep them in there.”

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