RLIF Challenges Australia To Fix Eligibility Mess

By STEVE MASCORD
INTERNATIONAL Federation chairman Scott Carter last night challenged Australia to stop foreigners playing Origin, let Queensland and NSW stars represent other countries or just come clean and admit they are using cash to strengthen the green and golds.
Hours before Saturday’s trans-Tasman Test at Dairy Farmers Stadium, a milestone meeting between officials from both sides of the Tasman will attempt to sort out what has become an unbridled eligibility mess.
Carter, who is also the chairman of the NZRL, told the Sydney Morning Herald it was completely Australia’s responsibility to fix the situation – but it had to be done by the start of next season.
“We believe the current sitation is tarnishing Origin and disenfranchising genuine Australians who want to represent their state,” Carter said.
“(ARLC chairman) John Grant initially said this was a matter for the international board but it’s Australia who compell players who want to play Origin to make themselves available for Australia.
“It’s a domestic protocol in Australia. There is absolutely nothing to stop other countries selecting Origin players who qualify for them as well.
“That being the case, Australia are using Origin to strengthen their national team. We’ll have to wait and see what they come up with on Saturday. I won’t hold them to a deadline of this week but whatever happens, it needs to be sorted out by next year.
“There is definitely an expectation that Australia will move to protect Origin and stop the damage being done to the international game.”
The tough-talking Carter insisted players chosing Origin over New Zealand or another country and then being tied to Australia was “about money – and nothing else”.
“The thing is, Australia don’t need to do this,” he said. “They can field three competitive international teams without using Origin and money to attract the best players.
“I can understand why a player would want to play Origin – but why force him to play for Australia? If they want to dilute Origin, that is a matter for them. Let the players still play for another country. On the other had, it’s not state of residency, it’s State of Origin. It has history and tradition.
“We’ll see what they’ve come up with. If nothing was to change, then the ARL has to admit it is using the lure of Origin, and the financial rewards involved, to recruit players.”
Saturday’s game is a test in the other sense of the word – a test for the current confusion over eligibility. James Tamou represented the Maori but was recruited by NSW captain Paul Gallen and picked for Australia, while Kiwis prop Sam Kasiano only turned down overtures from Queensland last week.
It’s understood any changes to the rules would not be retrospective, meaning players like Kasiano and Tamou would be allowed to continue representing the country of their choice.
Carter said the RLIF in November would discuss two issues that it did have jurisdiction over – residency and junior qualification.
“Does playing under 20s for a country commit you to the senior team?” he said. “And when does your eligibility start? We have players who have been in a country two years and nine months and at the moment that’s deemed to be ‘close enough’.
“Is it when they play their first game, or when they touch down? What if they go home as soon as the season is over?”
New Zealand finalised its site yesterday and will shift camp from Cairns to Townsville today, while a slight hamstring twinge to utility Tony Williams was the only news for the Australians, who posed for a team photo in the morning, trained at Townsville Sports Reserve immediately afterwards and returned for a well-attended coaching clinic in the afternoon.
Australia lock Paul Gallen, unable to train during the NRL finals because of niggling injuries, said he hadn’t missed a session all week in Townsville.
Cronulla’s Gallen joined team-mates in backing coach Tim Sheens to be retained. “Sheensy’s done a really good job and I know he really wants to do the World Cup next year,” he said.
“if we have success on the weekend and we have success in the first part of next year, I don’t see that there’s any reason to change the coach.”

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