How to solve the Origin eligibility confusion
You know the old saying which goes, “If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.”
James Tamou is a New Zealand duck and, no matter how much Maroon dye is pumped into his jersey next June, so is Josh Papali.
Peter Sterling has it right when he says we must simplify Origin eligibility rules; a player must play for the country in which he was born, if he still retains that country’s citizenship at the time of selection.
Will there be losers in these circumstances? Of course. There will be players who moved to Australia when they were infants who want only to play for the Kangaroos. But tough. The very viability of league’s trans-Tasman rivalry is at stake.
Yet I can understand the motivations of the Tamous’s of this world. Origin may pay somewhere around $50,000 a game next year, so who wouldn’t want to earn that money three times a season?
The answer, therefore, is simple: the ARL and NZRL must come together and ensure a similar level of payment for Tests between the two countries, thereby removing some of the incentive for Kiwi players to ditch their country of origin for someone else.
Of course this won’t placate those players entirely. Origin is league’s biggest stage and elite performers want to confront that challenge.
There is, however, a simple way for the best Kiwi players to provide themselves with a similar platform on which to perform: play for their home nation and take it to the Australians.
A truly competitive annual three-Test series between the two powerhouse league nations could come close to matching Origin as a spectacle. The problem has been the unwillingness of Kiwi players and administrations on either side of the Tasman to give the New Zealand team a chance to be consistently competitive.
The ARLC must act from the assumption that a strong Kiwi team is good for Australian rugby league.
New Zealand has the talent and it no longer has the excuse of fielding players who aren’t experienced at NRL level. The admission of the Warriors in 1995 and the greater presence of Polynesian players in the NRL in recent years has taken care of that.
We must do everything possible to ensure Kiwi players not only play for their rightful country but are well-compensated for doing so- and further compensated for beating Australia.
The presence of Tamou in a green-and-gold jersey answering questions from an interviewer in a thick Kiwi accent earlier this year was ridiculous.
That he was doing so having just played a major role in defeating his own countrymen was outrageous for those who want quality international rugby league.
Recent reports show the ARLC is on the verge of fixing the eligibility aspect of this fiasco. About time.