SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 07: Peni Terepo of Tonga takes on the defence during the International Rugby League Test match between Tonga and Samoa at Pirtek Stadium on May 7, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Do the international eligibility laws need rethinking?


Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita have dropped bombshells on the New Zealand and Australian international teams by deciding to play for Tonga.

The surprise move caught the entire rugby league community off guard, with everyone expecting Taumalolo and Fifita to play for the same teams they had represented during the ANZAC Test.

According to the Rugby League World Cup website, a player can represent a nation if they are either born in the nation, their parents or grandparents were born in that nation or they have a principal residence in that nation.

Additionally, players can nominate one Tier 1 nation and one Tier 2 or 3 nation to play for provided they are eligible for both. The Tier 1 nations are Australia, New Zealand and England, while Tier 2 and 3 nations are made up of all other playing nations.

Typically players will only play for a Tier 2 or 3 nation if they are not selected for either Australia, New Zealand and England.

This is not the case with Taumalolo and Fifita, who have sacrificed a big payday and the best chance they have of winning the tournament to represent Tonga. In fact, Fifita, who would have earned potentially $50,000, will earn around $3,000 for turning out for the Tongan team.

This decision has split not only the fans of the game but the players themselves. Joel Thompson praised Taumalolo’s decision and Chad Townsend commented that the World Cup would be more interesting now.

Benji Marshall, however, was disappointed in the move and thought claimed it was disrespectful, particularly given the development of the New Zealand side over the last few years.

For the Tongan side, the addition of two international stars is a huge boost leading into the World Cup. Taumalolo and Fifita will join the likes of Will Hopoate, Tui Lolohea, Konrad Hurrell, Michael Jennings and Daniel Tupou in a squad that is studded with NRL stars.

This has certainly increased interest around the World Cup and international rugby league in general.

However is this the right way to develop nations outside of Tier 1?

Relying on major players to withdraw themselves from the big three nations is not sustainable for countries like Tonga and Samoa. With the NRL now featuring a spread of players from a wide number of nationalities, it may be time to rethink the Tier system.

That is the opinion of David Nofoaluma, who believes that moving Tonga and Samoa into Tier 1 would allow them to succeed on the international stage. With financial assistance from the NRL, this could be a possibility.

Under that system, players like Taumalolo and Fifita would not be able to change allegiances before major tournaments. Rugby League’s international game suffers from having players playing for more than one country, which takes away from the credibility of the competition.

On the other hand though, allowing players that miss out of selection for Tier 1 teams to play for weaker sides improves the level of competition across the board. This, in turn, creates more interest in minor games that would not be there otherwise.

There are clearly arguments for both sides, keeping the system as it is or revamping the international system.

What do you think should happen? Should the Tier system remain in place and should players be allowed to change allegiances as they like?


7 COMMENTS

  1. The international game lacks credibility regardless of if players like JT13 and Fifita change allegiances for a world cup, it is essentially a 1 horse race, with the Aussies rarely being troubled. The positives of them running out for Tonga far outweigh the negatives in my opinion. It brings more attention to the tier 2 teams, makes games more competitive, allows players who would not otherwise have the opportunity to play with genuine superstars of the game…..

    It is time we stopped expecting the international game to be the pinnacle that it is in other sports, for the moment anyway. The only way it can be the true pinnacle of the game is for it to be competitive, and it won’t be competitive if the best players only line up for 2 or 3 teams.

    • But the thing is the international game WAS the pinnacle before the behemoth that is Origin swallowed it up. The international game became worthless when the ARL/NRL inexplicably decided to abandon Kangaroo Tours for meaningless mid year tests. When they started to call ALL test players Kangaroos rather than those lucky/good enough to be chosen to tour England and France every four years. It is a mind boggling that the oldest international Rugby league trophy “The Ashes” has not been up for grab since 2003. This trophy goes back to the very start (1908) of our great game and needs to be reinstated as the most important trophy in Rugby League.

      God dam I miss Kangaroo Tours!

      • Agree 100% tommyknocker. Unfortunately money has kilked the internstional game too with how much extra a player will earn by allying themselves with a tier 1 team. I also miss the tours.

  2. People complained for years about how players who missed out on selection for Australia or New Zealand were forced to sit out of a tournament of World Cup because they weren’t allowed to play for Fiji or Tonga or Samoa. Now ofcourse, people continue to complain now the rules have been changed. This is the best for the game, the tier 2 sides get a whole bunch of NRL players to really give the big 3 teams a scare. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I personally don’t want to watch a Tongan team filled with QLD Cup players & local Tongan players only to get absolutely hammered by Australia.

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