New Zealand Rugby League chief executive Jim Doyle today announced the national body had reluctantly decided to call off next week’s Test against the Cooks Islands in Rarotonga.

The Kiwis were due to fly to the Cook Islands next Tuesday to play their first-ever Test there on October 6.  But Doyle said the unavailability of 29 frontline contenders had left the NZRL with no option but to cancel the Test.

“We are committed to rescheduling the Test in the Cook Islands in the future but we aren’t in the position to be able to do the event justice on this occasion,” he said.

“There are so many players out of contention that we simply wouldn’t be able to select a side which would be of the standard we require to represent New Zealand in a Test match.

“We’re bitterly disappointed it has come to this because this match was critical for us in terms of preparation for the Test against Australia on October 16 and the Four Nations to follow. It was also vital to help foster the game in the islands.”

Players unavailable through injury or finals commitments were Gerard Beale, Kevin Locke, Josh Hoffman, Lance Hohaia, Manu Vatuvei, Matt Duffie, Sam Perrett, Jason Nightingale, Krisnan Inu, Bill Tupou, Simon Mannering, Steve Matai, Lewis Brown, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Benji Marshall, Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson, Nathan Fien, Ben Matulino, Russell Packer, Adam Blair, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Greg Eastwood, Sam Rapira, Alex Glenn, Frank Pritchard, Aaron Heremaia, Thomas Leuluai and Bronson Harrison.

While the match had been called off, Doyle said a group of key players would travel to Rarotonga next week to make community appearances there.  Doyle said the Kiwis’ squad for the one-off Test against Australia and the Four Nations to follow was due to be named on October 6.