Pacific nations demand their own State of Origin

ScottWoodward.me Roar Guru

By ScottWoodward.me, ScottWoodward.me is a Roar Guru

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    Rugby league administrators should be rushing to combine the four Pacific island nations – New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa and Fiji – into their own State of Origin series.

    If we have learnt anything from the current Rugby League World Cup, it is that the Kiwis are no longer the ‘big brothers’ in a class of their own from their three neighbouring ‘minnows’.

    Scheduling will be the key, but imagine a two to three-week break from the NRL and a weekend that could start with Samoa vesus Fiji on Friday night, Tonga versus New Zealand on Saturday night and the Blues versus the Maroons on Sunday.

    What an extravaganza! But wait, there’s more.

    The Pacific nations would play again the following weekend to decide the top two teams followed by Game 2 between the Blues and the Maroons. Later in the season, perhaps midweek, the two big finals could be played, with the Pacific island match played in Auckland. All matches would be a rating bonanza but, importantly, would be amazing for the growth of the game.

    (AAP Image/David Rowland)

    Laurie Daley described the recent Samoa versus Tonga match as the greatest opening he had ever seen for any match. The changing of the guard, with many players choosing their native country over playing for the powerful Kiwis, has balanced the Pacific nations scales, and all four teams are competitive relative to each other, although Samoa is still a work in progress after a 14-all draw with the battling Bravehearts. An interesting side note is that $80,000 was traded on Samoa at 1.01 against Scotland.

    The newfound competitiveness from the Pacific islanders has been a shot in the arm for rugby league, and if it is managed correctly by the administrators, the end result will be a new revenue stream from a fat TV contract that will complement the goldmine that is State of Origin.

    Channel Seven have covered the RLWC and Network Ten, with new owners, would also be obvious contenders for the rights to cover an Origin-style contest between the Pacific island nations.

    We have all seen the potential, but it all falls short if the big guns of Australia and New Zealand hand-pick the best from the top and offer huge sums of money in player grabs that will weaken Tonga, Samoa and Fiji.

    It was the players who initiated this move, but it should be the game’s leaders who should change the rules to ensure that it is equally financially attractive for Jarryd Hayne to play for Fiji and Jason Taumalolo to play for Tonga.

    (Image: NRL)

    As I sat in the stand at Allianz and watched the amazing Lebanon crowd cheer their heroes, somehow it just did not sit well as Josh Mansour, a son of a Beirut-born father, ran out for the Kangaroos after playing three matches for the Cedars.

    The strong will always be strong, but the exciting 28-22 Tongan win over the Kiwis signalled the birth of a new revenue stream for our game. The Tongans were fabulous, but this was the weakest Kiwi team I have ever rated, which was exacerbated by poor selections. Many considered Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor were harshly treated when they were dropped from the Kiwi team, and this led to other defections.

    Also young Storm hooker Brandon Smith was overlooked after playing a starring 80-minute role in the Queensland Cup final. He is a star and has been chosen as the man to succeed living legend Cam Smith, but somehow the Kiwi selectors preferred the pedestrian Thomas Leulual. Playing Kodi Nikorima on the left side in place of Te Marie Martin also raised many eyebrows, and Tonga enjoyed great success down that side.

    The Kiwis can and will get much stronger, but let’s hope that it is not at the expense of another neighbouring country.

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    The Crowd Says (111)

    • November 13th 2017 @ 4:11am
      Terry Tavita said | November 13th 2017 @ 4:11am | ! Report

      big brother?..nz teams just benefit from the huge pacific island communities there..now we see that all it takes just a handful of talented tongans to upset the balance..

      • November 13th 2017 @ 7:04am
        Not so super said | November 13th 2017 @ 7:04am | ! Report

        It’s called immigration. NZ gives them a lot- like a better chance in life

        • November 13th 2017 @ 7:51am
          Fox Lvy said | November 13th 2017 @ 7:51am | ! Report

          haters!

      • Roar Guru

        November 13th 2017 @ 9:31am
        ScottWoodward.me said | November 13th 2017 @ 9:31am | ! Report

        Hi Terry,
        The nice touch was that they did it for love for country and not money.

        • November 13th 2017 @ 12:59pm
          Fred said | November 13th 2017 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

          Absolutely – some of the trolls on here say Taumololo, Fifita etc chose Tonga for ‘cynical reasons’. Well as they’ve lost a fortune in pay to do so, I’d love to know what’s cynical about it!

          • Roar Guru

            November 13th 2017 @ 5:56pm
            ScottWoodward.me said | November 13th 2017 @ 5:56pm | ! Report

            Fred,
            They may have lost a “fortune” as you say, but they are richer for the experience.

        • November 13th 2017 @ 4:33pm
          Paul said | November 13th 2017 @ 4:33pm | ! Report

          Nice article and valid
          What PERSONALLY i would like to see is 4 new teams in NRL
          Really impressed with the atmosphere and heart displayed by the Papua new guinee team, stoked with the support of the Tongans and samoens as well . Those 3 should have teams and a WEST AUSSIE franchise

          • Roar Guru

            November 13th 2017 @ 5:58pm
            ScottWoodward.me said | November 13th 2017 @ 5:58pm | ! Report

            Paul,
            There would need to be a split with 2 franchises; I don’t believe we have the depth of high class talent to compliment that many teams and not degrade the quality we have now in the NRL.

      • November 13th 2017 @ 10:53am
        Cedric said | November 13th 2017 @ 10:53am | ! Report

        no it took Gerard Sutton the ref, Kiwis had the game at half time, then the 2nd half at 45min Sutton took control, 7 bad calls at least and the replays proved it. I thought the Kiwis’ did very well with 30% possession in the 2nd half.
        But at half time I was not happy for Tonga, I wanted more from them, but not the ref.
        I have sat with pen & paper through 2 replays, you should take a look.

        But as far as PI and Kiwi games when SOO is being played, I called that one about 2 or 3 years ago, I don’t think Aussies realised what a Samoa vs Tonga game would look like, I mean the whole build up etc. I had mentioned it because SOO is on tv too late (10pm) for a lot of working kiwis, so we have a footy drought during SOO, and some like me find it hard to get excited about either team as we have nothing to hang our hat on. Hence a pacific series.

        • November 13th 2017 @ 2:48pm
          Maestro said | November 13th 2017 @ 2:48pm | ! Report

          Sutton had a shocker or from the RL’s point of view a humdinger. Roy Masters article on orchestrating results rings true.

          • November 14th 2017 @ 11:20am
            Peter Phelps said | November 14th 2017 @ 11:20am | ! Report

            You only need to look at this year’s Grand Final to see refs orchestrating results. Clearly told at half time not to let Cowboys fans go home without something, a succession of dubious penalties ensure that before the whistle was once more buried deep in the ref’s pocket. Mission accomplished.

            This is a massive massive blight on our game. It has to be stopped wherever it raises its ugly head.

        • Roar Guru

          November 13th 2017 @ 6:00pm
          ScottWoodward.me said | November 13th 2017 @ 6:00pm | ! Report

          Cedric
          It will happen.

    • November 13th 2017 @ 4:13am
      Terry Tavita said | November 13th 2017 @ 4:13am | ! Report

    • November 13th 2017 @ 6:02am
      mikeT said | November 13th 2017 @ 6:02am | ! Report

      I’m not sure the excitement and crowds will continue for these games outside of a world cup. You need to remember that NZ v kangaroos doesn’t sell out in NZ, playing the islands 3x a year every year would be a tough sell despite the obvious excitement shown currently by Tongan supporters. I would also question talk of a financial bonanza… The tv numbers in NZ havent been big for the RLWC, viewership in Tonga and Samoa will never add $ to the kitty, while demands for equal pay across three weekends is likely to cost the NRL plenty. The only place where these games rate is in Aus and if games are being played outside of favourable time slots in NZ your numbers will drop off dramatically.

      • November 13th 2017 @ 1:00pm
        Fred said | November 13th 2017 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

        The Island teams ALREADY get good crowds outside the World Cup. I was at the Pacific Test in Sydney this year and it was a great atmosphere!

      • November 13th 2017 @ 4:34pm
        terry tavita said | November 13th 2017 @ 4:34pm | ! Report

        yup..world cups are always a bit of a novelty..

      • Roar Rookie

        November 13th 2017 @ 7:36pm
        Kreig Leitchze said | November 13th 2017 @ 7:36pm | ! Report

        Mike, the reason why Kiwi vs Roos doesn’t sell out is because unfortunately, Kiwis are fair-weather fans. (As are Aussies. Everyone except Novocastrians, it seems).

        I never would have believed it, except for the mass exodus of fans I’ve seen during losing Warriors games.

        And last year’s (2016) Auckland Nines final was atrocious! As soon as it was obvious the Eels were going to win over the Warriors, 3/4 of the stadium left.

        I wonder….. If the ABs started losing on a regular basis, what would their game-day crowd numbers be like?

        Australia and NZ really are very similar. Celebrate our sporting prowess very loudly and very proudly, yet vote with the feet when things aren’t going our way.

        Now, before you all arc up, this isn’t ALL fans, of course. I myself have NEVER left a game early. And I’m sure many of you are the same.

        But on the whole…… Look at every team in the NRL, during games when big losses are on the cards at home. Or when the team goes on a losing streak. Every single team (including the Broncos, my team, who draw the greatest crowds) act like this. Except Newcastle.

        Just as I’m excited about only one of NZ or Oz getting through to the final (providing Fiji doesn’t manage to get past both), and I don’t care which, because it’s awesome for the game, so too do I hope the Knights have a ripper of a year next year.

        In fact, given that I’m boycotting my beloved Broncos until they axe that psycho Matt Lodge, I think I might just go for the Knights until the Broncos get rid of that stain on the underpants of life.

        As for a PI comp, I think that’s the way to go; but you have to include PNG in that. The ONLY country where league is their national sport HAS to get the opportunity to play internationals more often.

        Oh, and if you’re going to play these games in NZ, you can’t just have them in Auckland. You want to encourage growth? Push into places like Dunedin.

        • Roar Guru

          November 14th 2017 @ 10:50am
          ScottWoodward.me said | November 14th 2017 @ 10:50am | ! Report

          Kreig
          FYI, your new team the Knights tried to sign Matt Lodge.

    • November 13th 2017 @ 7:07am
      Not so super said | November 13th 2017 @ 7:07am | ! Report

      It’s not origin by the criteria
      When you qualify through heritage it can’t be called origin
      It’s also not real expansion
      2 small islands with the population of 2 suburbs and an economy bereft of any purchasing power and with players all born and living elsewhere isn’t expansion.

      • Roar Guru

        November 13th 2017 @ 9:36am
        ScottWoodward.me said | November 13th 2017 @ 9:36am | ! Report

        mike
        They said the same about State of Origin between NSW and Qld.
        The quality of the content we witnessed on the w/end was top class and that will always win over in the end; there will always be slow adopters.

      • Roar Guru

        November 13th 2017 @ 9:39am
        ScottWoodward.me said | November 13th 2017 @ 9:39am | ! Report

        Not so super,
        So?
        Knock the road blocks down and call it anything; it does not change the creation of something exciting that we witnessed on the w/end. For every negative, you will find two positives.

      • November 13th 2017 @ 4:10pm
        terry tavita said | November 13th 2017 @ 4:10pm | ! Report

        those thousands of red cross flag-waving people are cheering island origin..duh..are you blind?

    • November 13th 2017 @ 7:25am
      jamesb said | November 13th 2017 @ 7:25am | ! Report

      What about PNG?

      • November 13th 2017 @ 7:58am
        Raugeee said | November 13th 2017 @ 7:58am | ! Report

        Well yeah – they will have to be in the talks, especially if they beat England this week.

        • Roar Guru

          November 13th 2017 @ 9:43am
          ScottWoodward.me said | November 13th 2017 @ 9:43am | ! Report

          Raugeee,
          I will be shocked if they beat England, but it would be massive for their country if they did.
          PNG have a long way to go with discipline and general defence compared to a very well drilled Bennett coached team.

      • Roar Guru

        November 13th 2017 @ 9:41am
        ScottWoodward.me said | November 13th 2017 @ 9:41am | ! Report

        james,
        Good point.
        They are already in the Qld Cup.

    • November 13th 2017 @ 7:52am
      Raugeee said | November 13th 2017 @ 7:52am | ! Report

      How would the ability to play for a P.I team affect Origin eligibility? NZers and English can’t play for QLD or NSW, what happens now that Tonga etc are becoming fully fledged Test nations? Who would Fifita be playing with for instance? I know Tonie Carroll played for NZ in 2000 while he was still playing for QLD – but I thought that was closed down. Origin players have always been allowed to play for Tier 2 countries if not chosen for Australia. What happens now that those countries are beating Tier 1 countries?

      • Roar Guru

        November 13th 2017 @ 9:46am
        ScottWoodward.me said | November 13th 2017 @ 9:46am | ! Report

        Raugeee,
        We are only having this conversation because world class players have decided to play for their Pac Island team. The games leaders need to ensure that continues and the players are encouraged to do so.

        • Roar Guru

          November 13th 2017 @ 11:16am
          Nat said | November 13th 2017 @ 11:16am | ! Report

          Would having this type of contest played in conjunction with SoO mean that there would be far fewer tier 2 reps wanting to play Origin? To date, Origin is the pinnacle contest and any top-line athlete would want to test themselves but if it came down to (high quality) Int series vs SoO , I would suspect and hope the PI boys would choose country.

        • February 15th 2018 @ 9:13pm
          Wilson said | February 15th 2018 @ 9:13pm | ! Report

          Adrian lam used to play for QLD and Kumuls

      • November 13th 2017 @ 2:50pm
        Maestro said | November 13th 2017 @ 2:50pm | ! Report

        Carroll played for NZ, then Australia then NZ – nothings changed..

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