Will State of Origin kill Test match football?
Nate Myles gives the thumbs up during State of Origin One. AAP Image/Action Photographics, Brett Crockford
As we gear up for another round of State of Origin on Wednesday night, rugby league’s fraternity in New Zealand are quietly hoping the series finishes quickly.
Why? Because State of Origin football is going to ruin international rugby league if proposed increases to match payments are approved.
A new broadcast deal currently under negotiation will flood the Australian game with cash. Players are pushing for an increase in Origin match fees to $50,000 a game.
If this happens, the international program will lose out, as the prospect of earning an extra $150,000 for New Zealand-qualified players could be too much to resist. Australia will then receive the rights to the best players.
As it stands, Origin players receive $20,000 per match and Australian players get $10,000 per Test. This compares with $7500 per Test in a Kiwis jersey.
Palmerston North-born prop James Tamou is the most recent case of a New Zealander who went through the Kiwis development system (playing for the Junior Kiwis in 2010) but has commitment to Australia and New South Wales, making his debut in both teams this year.
The international game has flourished in the past eight years with the success of the Tri-Nations series of 2005 and 2006, the 2008 World Cup and subsequent Four Nations tournaments. The Kiwis have won three tournaments including the World Cup and England has made the final on more than one occasion.
Wales, France and Papua New Guinea have all been in these tournaments and gained experience. Test match footy has jumped off the canvas after some dull periods earlier in the decade. The World Cup looms next year in Wales, England and France as another big commercial and sporting success.
The key issue is Mal Meninga and Ricky Stuart. Both are former Australian representatives and are doing an injustice to the game by trying to woo New Zealand-born (and other non-Australian players) to turn out for New South Wales and Origin. Great for their states, but a great detriment to international football.
On Wednesday night, we will see another ferocious game for the Cockroaches and Cane Toads.
But this fan quietly hopes State of Origin will finish quickly, the payments aren’t increased to $50,000 and his boyhood memories of watching Matthew Ridge and Stacey Jones in the black and white V aren’t his last memories of serious Test footy.
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