Island pride at stake as Christmas and Cocos battle it out for rugby league glory

Credit: Christmas Island Robbers

For residents of Christmas and Cocos Island, being able to represent their culture on a rugby league field is something they look forward to all year.

With both Islands only able to play a handful of games each year, their passion and love for the game shines through when they get those opportunities.

Luckily for them, the wait is almost over, with an Inter-Island rugby league game scheduled as the main event of their 2018 Sports Day on Sunday, November 4.

With just one day until the game, the magnitude of the occasion is not lost on Cocos Island captain, Zabidi Abedin.

“We’ve been waiting for this game to come along for over a year now, so everyone is excited,” Abedin said.

“The whole island has been very supportive towards the Sports Day.”

A former South Perth Lions U18’s Premiership winner, Abedin moved to Cocos Island after finishing school in Western Australia and has since played an instrumental role in growing rugby league on the Island.

“Cocos rugby league has always been there for Cocos, but there wasn’t as big of an interest as it is now,” he said.

“We’ve seen an increased number of interest throughout the past couple of years.”

That interest has translated to results on the field, with Cocos claiming victory in their previous two games against Christmas, including a 24-22 win in April.

Having been involved in both of those defeats, Christmas Island captain Tim Briggs says his side are desperate to claim that elusive win.

“We are determined to turn things around,” Briggs said.

“We have hunger to get that victory – but that hunger is now more like a famine.”

Having overseen the growth of participation numbers on the Island from 12 players in 2016 to 30 players in 2018, Briggs says he is pleased with the direction rugby league is heading.

“Representing the island creates a very unique opportunity and the boys are counting down the days with excitement,” he said.

It seems the hunger for rugby league has spread to the juniors, with plans for a 13-week junior league tag completion planned for 2019.

“We have over 50 players wanting to play in an upcoming junior program,” Briggs said.

“Numbers have continued to grow.”

NRL WA Programs Coordinator, Jai Chapman will make the trip over to Christmas Island for the fixture as part of Western Australia’s on-going support of Inter-Island Rugby League.