By STEVE MASCORD
AUSTRALIA centre Greg Inglis plans to future-proof his children against changes to rugby league eligibility rules by insisting they be born in Queensland.
As the wrangling over who should play for which state and country reaches its climax amongst officials, Inglis suggested the criticism he has received for chosing the Maroons despite being raised in northern NSW had made him determined that his future offspring be Queenslanders.
“I’m pretty sure they’ll be Queenslanders … we’ll go back over the border,” Inglis told the Herald in the lead-up to tomorrow’s trans-Tasman Test at Dairy Farmers Stadium.
“But we’re talking, probably, another few years yet. It’s their choice in the end, whatever they want to do.”
Inglis said he had sympthathy for Australian team-mate James Tamou, who switched to Australia this year after representing the Maori and was so stunned by the backlash he stayed in his Auckland hotel room before his green-and-gold debut in April.
“I was copping a lot of criticism over it,” said Inglis, who qualified for Queensland due to Melbourne’s feeder team being Brisbane Norths.
“When it was first asked, ‘who do you want to play for?’ … what it says in the rule book, that’s just the way it is.
“They pledge their eligibility. If people don’t like it, they’ve just got to live with it. They’re putting on the green and gold and that’s it.”
The Herald this week reported that the Rugby League International Federation wanted Australia to end the current situation where the lure of Origin was helping the
green and golds recruit players who would otherwise represent other countries.
But the ARLC has no plans to present any proposals when the boards of the two countries meet on Saturday and the only scheme currently under serious consideration is
stopping Junior Kiwis from playing Origin.
There are fears this would simply disuade players from making themselves available for the Junior Kiwis and make the Junior Kangaroos stronger by virtue of the same process that has led Tamou and Josh Papalii to opt for Australia at senior level this year.
The ARLC does not believe it owes the RLIF or New Zealand any undertakings on changes to Origin selection criteria as it is a domestic issue. This could lead to Origin
players being chosen by other countries, as Anthony Minichiello was last year when he represented both NSW and Italy without changing his country of election.
Tim Sheens’ Australians had yesterday off while the Kiwis followed a morning media session with school visits.
Prop Adam Blair, whose role as the competition’s highest-paid forward has proven the catalyst of the upheavals at Wests Tigers over the past 12 months – including the
axing of Sheens – admitted he did not deserve to be in the Kiwi squad.
The recruitment of Blair, who replaced the injured Jeremy Smith for the Dairy Farmers Stadium international, prompted the departure of Bryce Gibbs and Andrew Fifita last year and others such as Beau Ryan and Chris Heighington moving on recently was reported to have turned players against Sheens.
“With how I played this year and what I did for the club, I didn’t think I deserved to be front of the boys who played finals footy,” said Blair.
“I got caught up in that kind of stuff where it took me away from what I do best for myself and how I play footy. Once I got that sorted, which was the back end of the season which was really too late,
“I tried to do the things I used to do but it wasn’t what the Tigers needed of me. When I’m defending well, I’m playing well. That’s one of the things I went away from this year, being a strong defender. That’s one of the things I need to work on.”
Blair said he was relaxed about Wests Tigers not having appointed a coach for 2012. “My future’s secure at the Tigers, I can’t worry about anything else,” he said.
“Coming from a well-structured club (Melbourne) and coming to a situation where you’ve got to find your feet, it was really hard for myself to work off the players that we have there.
Blair said the axing of Sheens was unexpected. “I obviously just met him this year … I got along well with Tim and it was surprising to myself and a few other pkayers,” he said.
The Kiwis have not made Sam Kasiano, who has been implicated in controversial Mad Monday comments, available for interview this week. “He doesn’t say much but when ie does talk, it’s pretty funny,” BLair said.
“You guys are trying to get to him – you can’t miss him anywhere. He seems to get away from everyone. He kind of sticks to himself and he has been going about his business this week and doing the right thing at training.
“He’s looking sharp for a big guy … I think he finds it hard getting out of bed!’
Kasiano chose New Zealand over Queensland just last week. Blair observed: “We were lucky to have those Bulldogs guys there. That had an impact on his decision. I think if we didn’t have those guys there, he would have been wanting to go somewhere else.”
Team manager Tony Kemp said Kasiano was shy around team-mates, let alone media and had been tentative when asked to address the squad at one point in camp. Kemp said Mad Monday had not been mentioned internally
Wests Tigers star Benji Marshall will come face-to-face with the deposed Sheens at a media conference in Townsville this morning
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD