Rugby league’s biggest threat is State of Origin
131 Have your say
NSW fans cheer for their team
International rugby league risks becoming a complete joke if the constant flow of talent towards a State of Origin jersey isn’t stemmed.
Bulldogs prop Sam Kasiano is the latest New Zealand born forward to look longingly at the games showpiece event. Those looks are being returned with equal interest.
The 21-year-old moved from Auckland to Brisbane with his family as a teenager and now stands on the threshold of pulling on a Maroon jersey in the series decider in that same city on July 4.
Kasiano isn’t the only one keen to take advantage of the blurred eligibility lines.
North Queensland young-gun Jason Taumalolo is also being courted by Queensland.
The 19-year-old was born in Auckland and moved to Townsville after being scouted by the Cowboys while playing for a New Zealand under-16 team.
From there he played for the Queensland under 18′s and Australian schoolboys.
James Tamou was born in Palmerston North and moved with his family to Australia when he was 13.
He settled in Sydney, played his junior footy for the Paddington Tigers and attended Matraville High School.
The 23-year-old represented the New Zealand Maori, Junior Kiwis and was selected in their Four Nations train-on squad last year.
Today, he’s a proud New South Welshman who is even prouder to wear the green and gold of Australia.
Why? Because the lure of State of Origin is too much for any player to ignore.
It’s not their fault.
Who wouldn’t want to play in front of a crowd like the 83,110 who packed into ANZ Stadium for game two of the series?
Who wouldn’t want to test themselves against the best of the best?
Who wouldn’t want to get paid some extra coin to do it?
These men are painted as mercenaries, but nothing could be further from the truth.
They’re taking advantage of a system that isn’t protecting the wider interests of the game.
If the ARL Commission doesn’t work hand in hand with the International Rugby League to address the problem of the ever growing player drain, then the international game will continue to drift into obscurity.
It’s already a tough ask for fans to swallow a World Cup where only three teams are competitive.
That task becomes harder when the biggest nation is swallowing up some of the best talent from a competitor.
There needs to be stricter rules regarding eligibility for State of Origin which will also have a flow on effect for international rugby league.
State of Origin is a contest between New South Wales and Queensland.
Doesn’t it stand to reason that if you were born in New South Wales then you have to play for the Blues?
Or if you born in Queensland then you have to play for the Maroons?
Don’t worry about where you played your first game of senior football, a check list or guidelines.
If you don’t want to play for the state where you sucked in your first bit of oxygen then you don’t get to play.
Special cases could be brought forward for those born in other countries who came to Australia when still very young, but it should be assessed thoroughly.
This isn’t just about making sure Australia has someone competitive to play against in the off-season.
It’s about ensuring the code develops in other nations.
Origin is a money making beast. The three games are easily the biggest things on the rugby league calendar.
Perhaps some of the revenue needs to be directed towards the likes of Fiji, Samoa, Papua New Guinea and Tonga to name a few.
That may not be feasible, but there’s no doubt they need greater assistance.
The players are currently the ones making the choice to ditch their nation of birth, but the option to do so needs to be taken away.
It’s of greater importance in the long term to the game than any other issue at the moment.
You can follow Luke Doherty on Twitter @Luke_Doherty and on Sky News Australia.
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