AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 20: Head Coach Mal Meninga of Australia looks on after the International Test match between Tonga and Australia at Mount Smart Stadium on October 20, 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

Another day, another potential Kangaroo opting out to play for another nation.

The past few days have been a nightmare for Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga as marquee prop Payne Haas ruled himself out through injury while likely debutant winger Joseph Sua'ali'i has declared for Samoa.

The 19-year-old superstar Roosters' decision has surely forced the Kangaroos brass into yet another decision they probably assumed they wouldn't need to be making.

The lure of representing the nation to honour the "sacrifices they have made throughout my career" as stated by Sua'ali'i was just too strong.

PENRITH, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 18: Joseph Suaalii of the Roosters looks dejected after the Roosters were defeated by the Pamthers during the round 15 NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Sydney Roosters at Panthers Stadium, on June 18, 2021, in Penrith, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Whereas he was at very short odds to run out on the wing for Australia's opener in a month's time, he will now proudly wear the number one for Samoa.

He joins Jarome Luai, Brian To'o, Junior Paulo and Josh Papaali'i in the Matt Parish-coached Samoan side. Perhaps Luai aside, they were all certainties to be called upon by Meninga to represent the green and gold.

Meanwhile Felise Kaufusi, David Fifita, Kotoni Staggs and Daniel Tupou will all run out for Tonga while Victor Radley had declared for England.

Andrew Fifita and Jason Taumalolo revived International Rugby League a few years ago by shunning the Kangaroos and Kiwis respectively to represent Tonga.

CAIRNS, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 29: Jason Taumalolo of Tonga looks on during the 2017 Rugby League World Cup match between Scotland and Tonga at Barlow Park on October 29, 2017 in Cairns, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

It started a trend that saw multiple NRL stars, many of whom were very much in the set ups for the aforementioned Tier 1 nations, to declare for their countries of Origin.

That said, we've never seen the number, or quality, of likely Kangaroos opt out representing the defending World Champion Kangaroos.

To'o, Crichton, Luai, Paulo, Staggs, Kaufusi, and Papalii all represented their states at Origin level earlier in the season.

The question has to be asked; why?

Given the Kangaroos status as short-priced favourites, even following the withdrawals, to retain their crown, why are players opting out of likely spots?

I've heard rumblings that players are turning their back on coach Mal Meninga. It's also been suggested by some in the media that players are choosing marquee positions to put themselves in better positions to negotiate future contracts.

I couldn't disagree with either of these suggestions more.

The reason for so many high-profile players opting to represent their nations of Origin seems simple to me, opportunity.

The opportunity to be a part of something special, which I expect to be produced in this upcoming World Cup.

I'm on record, many times, as stating this will be the best World Cup of all time.

The days of the famed 'big three' vs the rest are well and truly over.

We've seen Tonga beat the Kiwis at the World Cup level while they also beat the Kangaroos pre-Covid.

With the greatest of respects to squads named in the past, Tonga and Samoa have named their strongest sides ever in the past week.

Fiji have named an extended squad containing names like Viliame Kikau, Daniel and Jacob Saifiti, and Reagan Campbell-Gillard while Apisai Koroisau is also likely to feature. The latter two have yet to official declare but the fact Campbell-Gillard has been named proves he's not said no.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 24: Fijian players sing a prayer before the 2017 Rugby League World Cup Semi Final match between the Australian Kangaroos and Fiji at Suncorp Stadium on November 24, 2017 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Greece have named their first ever World Cup squad chock full of NSW and QLD Cup players.

The Kiwis have named a side who seen their odds to win the tournament come in, and rightfully so.

England are about to name a star-studded side brimming with talent from the elite of the NRL and Super League. Papua New Guinea and Lebanon are almost certain to name NRL quality players also.

Simply put, this should be the most competitive World Cup of all time.

Players are taking the chance to represent their heritage in front of a potentially massive audience both in person and across televised platforms.

They're doing so while enjoying the very real chance that their nations will produce something special.

That Samoan side is ridiculous! They're arguably pushing Tonga as the nation's number four side.

I'd even argue they're pushing the English side in terms of pure quality.

Throw in Fiji, which could potentially boast an all-NSW Origin forward row rotation plus a certain Panthers second rower, and the big three is now a big six.

The relaxing of eligibility rules has allowed for this. I'm going to go against the grain in the media and say I absolutely love this.

Luai, Staggs and Kaufusi will all have likely missed Kangaroo selection. In tournaments gone by these players would have had to have given up their Origin futures to play in the World Cup.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 26: Brian To’o of the Blues (R) celebrates with Jarome Luai (L) after scoring a try during game two of the State of Origin series between New South Wales Blues and Queensland Maroons at Optus Stadium, on June 26, 2022, in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Instead, they will run out for strengthened second-tier nations adding prestige to the tournament as a whole.

We hear all the talk about how international football is the pinnacle of our game. The fact players are choosing to represent other nations is going a long way to proving that.

Again, those recent tweaks to eligibility rules have allowed for that to happen.

Forget ridiculous talk of players not wanting to represent the Kangaroos.

I don't even buy into these suggestions that players are opting into spots to maximise their future earning potential.

It all comes down to the chance of being part of something special.

Given the strength of the squads named to date, this upcoming World Cup is certainly going to just that... special!


  1. It is very correct that the best “other nation” players play for their home countries if that’s their choice, however, two things need to be addressed: (1) international teams need to be bolstered financially for these types of tournaments, because (2) State of Origin should only be played by Qld and NSW players whose allegiance is to Australia. The argument that the NRL is made up of 50% Poly players has nothing to to do with Origin eligibility and Origin is not a cash cow for them either. I add that most of the players “defecting” would not have made the Australian team anyway.

Comments are closed.