NRL CEO Andrew Abdo has praised the future of international rugby league while simultaneously confirming the death of rep round, a bid to harmonise the game when it comes time to pledge allegiances.
While the rep round was a hit, the choice some players were forced to make between their heritage and their state created more headaches than headlines, something Andrew Abdo is keen to fix in an attempt to strengthen the international game.
Players like Daniel Tupou and Kotoni Staggs, who both played the first State of Origin game in this series, were forced to choose between representing New South Wales or Tonga, a decision Abdo says will no longer need to be made.
“Instead of having just a single round we can start to think about tours, we can start to think about tournaments, and we can start to think about regular content every year, instead of just doing a one off. That is incredibly exciting" Abdo told nrl.com.
While the international game has been thought by many to be a 'three-horse race' between Australia, New Zealand and England, Jason Taumalolo's decision to play for Tonga at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup changed the game's landscape on its grandest stage. Both Tonga and Fiji knocked off Tier 1 nations that tournament, and the rest is history.
Now, on the cusp of the first World Cup in five years, the lack of international football might leave some feeling underprepared for the tournament, however the rep round has left the NRL's CEO hungry for more.
“We are all incredibly excited about the re-birth of international football coming out of what we have been restricted to the last couple of years. This weekend was a great example of how important it is to the players and to the fans, and to all of us.
“It is the X-factor we have with rugby league – the opportunity that we have to really grow the international game, particularly here in Australia and New Zealand, and of course throughout the Pacific, so international footy will be a real priority going forwards."
Abdo also stated that while a return to three Wednesday Origins will help fulfil commercial arrangements, an end of season 'international window' is being considered for October-November as the NRL looks to find balance alongside the regular competition, Origin and the pre-season.