WIZ: Hey Origin, leave our kids alone
112 Have your say
New Zealand's Issac Luke is tackled by Australia's James Tamou. AAP Image/SNPA, David Rowland
This whole eligibility debate around New Zealand born players and State of Origin is a real thorn in my side. As it stands, the problem lies with the rules, because they are that wide that practically anyone can do what they like.
I don’t begrudge the respective Origin coaches – Ricky and Mal – for trying to entice talented young Kiwis into their squad. Everyone wants to win in rugby league.
And these guys simply want the best players.
But the administrators need to address the problem quickly because it could spell the end of competitive international rugby league as we know it.
It’s no surprise that the two most sought after props in the game right now are Kiwis: James Tamou and Sam Kasiano are both playing fantastic football and join a pretty elite group of New Zealanders starring for Australian clubs in the NRL.
Whether or not Kasiano has pledged allegiance to New Zealand or the Maroons, he has been put in an unfortunate position: he is now a main focal point for the game.
And it shouldn’t be that way.
No player, no discussion topic, should outweigh the intensity of the Origin series itself. And this one has the potential to do so.
I don’t think it’s a monetary thing for these players. When you’re already earning six figure sums to play for your club, you’re not going to be easily swayed by the prospect of a few more thousand dollars to ditch your place of birth.
But the New Zealand rugby league do need to do more to let these youngsters know just what it means to represent your country, to stand side by side with your countrymen when that anthem is played.
I remember when I was a player how much I looked forward to playing alongside my fellow Kiwis.
I understand that times change and players born in New Zealand now often end up coming across to Australia at a young age. They mightn’t feel as parochial as the players from my era.
But former international players, like myself, should be appointed as ‘New Zealand league ambassadors’ to meet with these future stars of the game, talk with them about their future, and give them a first-hand account of just how good it feels when you take the field for your country.
It’s also a little dissapointing that I haven’t heard anyone come out from the New Zealand Rugby League and say ‘Sam, we want you in our side’. Would that put pressure on Kasiani to further commit to the Kiwis?
Perhaps. But that may be what it takes.
But away from that, take a look at the Top Eight in the NRL at it stands now and look at that spread. For supporters of clubs currently out of the 8, I’m sorry to tell you this, but the Top Eight is done and dusted.
It would take a miracle for any of those other sides to force their way back in. And I say that with quite a few games left still in the season.
Gary ‘Wiz’ Freeman is one of the great halfbacks in New Zealand rugby league history. Now an outspoken and popular media personality, he joins The Roar as an expert rugby league columnist.
Gary 'Wiz' Freeman is one of the great halfbacks in New Zealand rugby league history. Now an outspoken and popular media personality, he joined The Roar in 2012 as an expert rugby league columnist, and continues in 2013.