Rugby league is also a national sport in the Cook Islands but it needs more exposure to grow the game and make it better, former Wests Tiger and Aitu center Esan Masters says.

Masters who plays for the Huddersfield Giants in the Super League said Papua New Guinea had more exposure which had seen the game grow.

The 27-year-old said tournaments such as the Pacific Championships would benefit Cook Islands and other Pacific nations as well in terms of growing the game.

“This tournament is good for us and all the islands,” Masters said.

“Look what it has done to Papua New Guinea and how the game has grown.

“Being here (PNG) and getting treated like a rock star, it’s crazy, just great experience and how we were welcomed.

“If we can build that similar passion all across the 15 islands in the Cook Islands it would be great for our country.”

Masters said the tournament had provided great opportunity for young players and that it would build the team in the future.

“A lot of young guys got their opportunity to make their debut and it’s good for us,” he said.

“It’s a good exposure for them to go against NRL players in PNG and Fiji sides

“They now know what it’s like to play at this level and what it’s like to play against players that have passion.

“A lot of countries play with so much passion and you cannot measure that in a game, it’s much more to them than us so it’s a good experience for them.”

Masters said there were a number of NRL players who were eligible to represent Cook Islands but had made their choice to play for Australia and New Zealand.