Blues star Brian To’o’s decision to represent Samoa over Australia at the Rugby League World cup has sparked a fierce debate surrounding international eligibility.
The 23-year-old, who will play his sixth game for NSW in the series decider, explained he will be “playing for my family” at the tournament in October.
As it stands, players such as To’o can represent NSW and Queensland in Origin before electing to play for tier-two nations.
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But, speaking on Triple M, rugby league pundits explained they believed the system is flawed and players should elect where their future lies early in their careers.
“I am going to call ‘BS’ on this, now Brian To’o is a phenomenal player, he is unbelievable, but if you’re playing Origin and you choose to play for NSW or Queensland, this is a selection trial, deadset, for Australia,” Ben Dobbin said on Triple M.
“You don’t choose that you are going to play for another country and rule yourself out for Australia. I am sorry, but otherwise we are going to have James Graham playing State of Origin but no, I am going to play for England.
“You play Origin, you play for Australia and if you don’t get selected you decide whether or not you go back to your national side.”
“You don’t pick and choose, right at the beginning and I know this because some kids have moved out here, someone like a Petero (Civoniceva) who came here as a kid, and they want to play for Queensland, but they don’t choose,” Gorden Tallis said.
“So the point is, we have to stamp this out now, when you are 15 or 16, you can tick a box or when you are 18, as soon as you come into the NRL you tick a box and that is the box.
“If you don’t play Origin, you can then not go and play for that, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.”
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English international James Graham had different ideas, explaining players like Brian To’o playing for nations other than Australia is only a positive for the game.
With Origin level talent dispersed through the rugby league playing nations, the international competition can only become stronger.
In the past, State of Origin served as the pinnacle of Kangaroos selection showcases, but now Graham believes the series is more than just a trial.
“I think with our international game we need people like Brian To’o playing for Samoa, I think it is important and why put young adults in an unnecessary position and say choose now,” Graham said.
“You don’t know who you are going to be when you grow up, you don’t know what opportunities are going to be presented to you, I think it is a great thing and I think Origin has gone past that it is a trial for the Australian team.
“It is bigger than that, it is his own entity.”
“But it is still called State of Origin,” Fox League’s James Hooper said.
“It is an Australian concept, it is where you’re from whether you are from NSW or Queensland.”
“Nothing is going to take away from that, I think you can still play for NSW or Queensland and still not play for Australia and choose to play for Samoa or Tonga,” Graham said.
“I think if you put your hand up and are going to play for NSW or Queensland then you need to be prepared to be picked for Australia, because State of Origin has always been regarded as a Kangaroos selection trial,” Hooper said.
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“You have to opt to play for Australia first, if you then miss out on the Kangaroos squad, lets say Brian To’o, he is one of the form wingers in the comp, he would probably be in the squad, but if he then misses out I don’t have a problem with it.”
Rugby league legend Gorden Tallis agreed that if more Origin players opted to play for nations other than Australia the Rugby League World Cup would become stronger — but likened the decision to his own, opting to play for Australia over Scotland.
“There is 13 guys – To’o, Crichton, Tupou, Luai, Haas, Koroisau, Paulo, Talakai, Holmes, Taulagi, Papalii, Kaufusi, Nanai and Fa’asuamaleaui, so there is 13 guys playing State of Origin, it would be better if they were playing for those sides,” Tallis said.
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“How good would the international game be if Australia goes out and we don’t know if they are going to win against Tonga, Samoa, Cook Islands, PNG or Fiji.
“Queenslanders generally go on to play for Australia, if I am not a Queenslander, and I chose to go play for where my grandfather is from, Scotland.
“If I wanted to play for Scotland, I would have chose Scotland but I gave up the right to play for Queensland, but I didn’t chose Queensland because it meant more to me, so you have to pick what means more to you and my family, I wanted to play for Queensland and Australia.”