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In the lead up to the Four Nations, a lot has been made out of some of the controversial selections made by England coach Steve McNamara, namely Jack Reed, Chris Heighington and Rangi Chase.
I’ve been left bewildered by the reactions of the likes of Garry Schofield, who has labelled the selections of Heighington and Chase a farce, when really, these selections would be considered legitimate under the international eligibility rules of most sports.
What puzzles me so much is that nothing has been said about the selections of Akuila Uate and Tony Williams for Australia, neither of which would be allowed in any other sport.
Now, people try to defend rugby league’s ‘nation-hopping’ policy by saying that it happens in all sports.
It’s true that people change their international eligibility all the time in all sports. But no one ever plays for one country and then plays for another. It cheapens the value of the jersey.
For me, it’s not about who you play for. I don’t care if someone claims eligibility for a country, because they had a two-week holiday there once.
Just, as long as they play for that country and for no other country.
Aku Uate cheapens the Kangaroos jersey, because he played for Fiji (including in the game against Australia). Tony Williams cheapens the Kangaroos jersey because he has played for Tonga.
I have nothing against either player. Both are great players and I’m sure they’re great people.
Uate will be the best winger in the world (if he isn’t already). But God forbid, the world’s best winger should play for someone other than Australia, New Zealand or England.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not picking on Uate and Williams.
Fui Fui Moi Moi played for Tonga before he played for New Zealand. He should never have been allowed to play for the Kiwis.
Same goes for Lote Tuqiri, who played for Fiji before Australia – he should never have been allowed to play for the Kangaroos.
Michael Jennings played for Tonga before Australia. He’s actually played more games for Tonga than he has for Australia.
If these players had stuck with their first international team, rugby league would be far more competitive at an international level.
For example, this is Tonga’s team if they have all the players who have played for them and for Australia/New Zealand:
1. Etu Uaisele
2. Fetuli Talanoa
4. Esikeli Tonga
5. Ukuma Ta’ai
6. Feliti Mateo
7. Eddie Paea
8. Brent Kite
9. Tevita Leo-Latu
10. Lopini Paea
11. Richie Fa’aoso
12. Willie Mason
13. Andrew Fifita
14. Willie Manu
15. Mickey Paea
16. Sam Moa
17. Antonio Kafusi
That team could easily upset Australia, New Zealand or England on their day.
The minnows also do the ‘nation swap’.
Frank Pritchard switching to Samoa, Jarryd Hayne switching to Fiji and Nigel Vagana switching to Samoa for the World Cup. None of these swaps should have been allowed.
It’s not the lack of competitiveness that makes international rugby league a farce. It’s the nation-swapping.
The RLIF need to adopt a policy that once you play for an international team, you can never play for another.
Maybe that policy will make international rugby league more competitive. Maybe, it will just make everyone switch to Australia so that they can play Origin.
But it will end the nation-swapping, which is what makes international rugby league a farce.
So, for the Four Nations, I, as a proud Australian, refuse to support the Kangaroos because it’s un-Australian to have a Fijian and Tongan representative wearing the Australian jersey.