Resilience is a trait associated with Cook Islands coach Ian Bourke, who took on the job knowing his side would be up against the odds in terms of resources, pathways and personnel in the Women’s Rugby League World Cup.
He’s been the assistant coach for the Wyong Roos in the Intrust Super Premiership for seven years, and hopes to land a head coaching job in the near future, and taking on this challenge has been a step in the right direction.
Having never coached women before, Bourke has expanded his horizons and thrives off the obstacles being thrown his way that makes him a stronger coach and person.
“Geographically pulling girls in from New Zealand, interstate and Sydney has been challenging, but at the end of the day they need someone to be patient,” Bourke says after going down in a heavy 76-0 defeat to New Zealand.
“I’m trying to give a crash course in advanced principles, but getting that right balance of making sure it’s not too complex.
“The players are probably a bit broken at the moment, but it’s about keeping their spirits up, it’s about the experience and continuing to play for their culture.
“If people keep walking away, they’ll keep getting the same result.”
Last November, Jillaroos star Elianna Walton was instrumental in getting a team together in Western Sydney, which was key to developing a side in the World Cup.
To be selected for the Cook Islands was not as difficult as the other nations due to the lack of depth and personnel, but Bourke says his group of players turned up with a big commitment drive.
The three-day turnarounds in the campaign have not helped these players who are not used to a high-intensity level of professionalism and conditioning, but Bourke has embraced the challenge with both hands.
“I’ve been coaching men all of my life and for me to jump out of my box and out of my comfort zone has been a step in the right direction for me to get that confidence and talk in front of the media,” Bourke says.
“I’ve been an assistant coach at Wyong for the last seven years to Rip Taylor and I’ve had some good mentors, and this was a good charter for me and it still is to transition into being a head coach; I’ll continue to learn.
“The [Cook Islands] girls have been great, the characteristics are good, they’re really passionate about their Rugby League, but a lot of them are Rugby Union based.
“I don’t like to micro-manage people, but at the end of the day I need to continue to increase their learning and develop their knowledge of the game.”
The way Bourke speaks after the game shows he has a resilient attitude that has all the makings of a head coach.
He admits the transition into becoming a coach is no easy task given the lack of opportunity among other factors, but he will continue to work hard, take chances and embrace challenges.
“There are minimal opportunities out there, when you don’t have a big profile and have never played NRL it’s challenging,” Bourke says.
“You’ve just got to keep believing in yourself and believing in the system and continuing to help people because that’s what it’s about.
“It’s about passing that knowledge on to the next generation whether it’s women or juniors or men.
“That’s how Rugby League evolves and it’s about those people at the top level passing their knowledge on for free.”