Decision To Benefit Pacific Teams
International rugby league is set to be turned on its head, with eligibility rules being overhauled to ensure players aren’t forced to choose between Origin and their heritage country.
The Rugby League International Federation’s landmark decision means players such as Jarryd Hayne can represent Fiji, without ruling themselves out of Origin contention or playing for the ‘Big Three’— Australia, New Zealand and England.
If a player is not selected for one of the major nations, they are then able to represent nations including Fiji, Samoa and Papua New Guinea and switch between the tiers without suffering any repercussions.
According to Fox Sports, the move is in the final stages of being formalised and has received unanimous support from the game’s 18 full member nations, with the changes to come into effect by October 1.
Next year’s Rugby League World Cup will benefit in a huge way, with the likes of Anthony Milford (Samoa), Hayne (Fiji), James Tedesco (Italy) and Robbie Farah (Lebanon) just some of the players able to represent other nations if overlooked by Australia without hindering their chances of future rep selection.
“These rules will allow the best players to represent their countries and ensure that the fans will get to see the best product whenever international rugby league is played,” 2017 Word Cup CEO Andrew Hill said.
“As CEO of the Rugby League World Cup we welcome these changes because fans across Australia and New Zealand and Papua New Guinea will be able to watch the World Cup with confidence that the best players will be playing.”
The rule changes will not allow players to switch between players during a tournament, or move between the top tier countries Australia, New Zealand and England like Tonie Carroll did over a decade ago.
As for Origin, players are still bound by the state-based contest’s own criteria, and once an eligible player such as Kieran Foran or Trent Hodkinson aligns themselves with New Zealand or England, they cannot represent NSW or Queensland.
A player such as Semi Radradra still could not represent the Blues as he did not play in NSW before the age of 13.
The new rules are aimed to avoid the farcical scenes in recent years, where players have made themselves unavailable for events like the mid-season Pacific Tests for fear of ruling themselves out of Origin, Australian or Kiwi representation.
Players will now be able to reap the financial benefits of playing Origin — $30,000 a game — without the heartache of having to snub second tier nations they take great pride in representing.
Edited by Leone Cabenatabua