By STEVE SPINKS
TRYING to qualify the Cook Islands for the 2010 World Cup could be soccer's idea of Mission Impossible.
After all, the Cook Islands national team is 193rd in the FIFA International rankings ... out of a possible 205.
The only teams rated lower than the South Pacific minnows are Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Sao Tome e Principe, Anguilla, Brunei, Aruba, Afghanistan, Djibouti, Mont-serrat, Turks and Caicos Islands, Guam and American Samoa.
But Lismore's Tim Jerks doesn't mind.
Especially since the Soccer Far North Coast coaching and development manager has just been appointed the Cook Islands' head coach for two years.
Jerks will take up his appointment in the new year.
But while he acknowledges that getting the Cook Islands into the World Cup, when qualifying starts in 2007, would be close to impossible, it doesn't dampen his enthusiasm for the job.
"I'm really looking forward to it," Jerks said.
"It's definitely a good career move, there's no doubt about that, and I'm very humbled to be part of their organisation.
"Outside of that it's a good family and life experience."
Jerks' wife Janelle, who will take leave from Southern Cross University, and children Tilly and Hugo, will join him in the Cook Islands and live on the main island of Rarotonga.
The Lismore soccer coach's appointment to the top job in the Cook Islands wasn't totally out of the blue.
After all, Jerks has had close association with the game in the South Pacific, starting with a short stint as coach for Tuvalu in 2003. He has also coached the Cook Islands before.
"When I was on Tuvalu the team competed in the South Pacific Games," Jerks said.
"The president of Cook Islands football invited me to talk after that and we had a bit of tea together and we've been talking ever since.
"Last year I took the national team to the Oceania World Cup qualifiers.
"We had some more talks, the offer came in August and we leave after Christmas."
Jerks won't be just in charge of the senior men's team.
He will also coach the national Under-15s, 17s, 20s and 23s, as well as the senior women's side.
"My job is not only to coach but to identify the best coaches and bring them on as assistants," he said.
"I am also trying to set up scholarships for some of the juniors with sports high schools in Brisbane and establish links with this area, maybe with scholarships for players in the North Coast Suns, a Far North Coast Under-21 team playing in the Summer Soccer Youth League, and the Flames squads.
"There's no doubt there will be plenty of development work as well."
So Jerks' mission is to try to qualify the Cook Islands for the World Cup, coach their juniors and women's national sides, establish stronger links with Australia and carry out local development work.
That's his mission and he's chosen to accept it.