‘That’s not Queensland’: QRL slams Origin eligibility changes
Queensland has lodged a strong objection to a plan to allow players to don a State of Origin jersey without declaring their allegiance to Australia.
Bronco and Tongan Test player Kotoni Staggs would be able to represent NSW in State of Origin without committing to playing for Australia under proposed rule change designed to boost the international game before next year's World Cup.
While strongly supporting the growth of the game, QRL chairman Bruce Hatcher believes Origin should remain the domain of players whose preference is to play for Australia and has firmly made this point in a phone call to the ARL.
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"The role of the QRL is to look after Origin,'' Hatcher said.
"Guys who want to play for other nations and also want to play Origin just defeats the whole reason why Origin has been successful.
"Our role is to provide pathways for players to represent Queensland and Australia. If you have someone playing for Queensland who does not want to play for Australia then you have denied someone else a chance.
"I agree we must develop the game but the difficulty in broadening the Origin base too far is that you lose what the contest is all about. Origin is unique.''
Staggs played for Tonga last year because, under the rules at that time, he was eligible to be chosen for a second tier nation if overlooked by Australia.
With 50 per cent of NRL players having Polynesian heritage the game is attempting to ensure nations such as Tonga and Samoa to continue to develop.
As the World Cup nears there was expected to be increased pressure on players to choose their nation of preference which can be a complex issue because there are many NRL stars who have ties to multiple nations through birth, citizenship or residency.
The rule change would allow players to don a blue or maroon jersey, declare themselves unavailable to play for Australia, then compete for their home nation against Australia.
State of Origin players are paid $30,000 per match and the traditional expectation is that if a player competes for Queensland or NSW they should be eligible to play for Australia.
The hot-blooded state versus state, mate versus mate vibe of Origin football has been based on could be brought into question if players who had no desire to play for Australia played Origin football but the growth of the game is also a consideration.
Players such as Joe Ofahengaue, Tevita Pangai and Daniel Tupou are among a large group of NRL stars eligible for Pacific nations and Australia.
Originally published as 'That's not Queensland': QRL slams Origin eligibility changes