This article, written by Steve Mascord, originally appeared in issue 398 of Rugby League World magazine. Issue 399 is currently in production and will be on sale from June 6. Click here to find out more about the magazine and to browse back issues click this link…
Representative Rugby League in Australia outside of State of Origin is at the lowest ebb in years right now.
Withdrawals from the City-Country game in Dubbo, central New South Wales, reached double figures. One of these players, Canterbury and Country’s Michael Ennis, reportedly said he just did not want to play.
In the NSW-Queensland under-20s game, Blues halfback Luke Brooks and winger Alex Johnston also withdrew uninjured. While their respective clubs – Wests Tigers and South Sydney – took the wrap, Rugby League World understands the players themselves just weren’t interested in the fixture.
One man who was interested in the Under 20s game was Canberra’s Anthony Milford. He chose to play in it IN PREFERENCE to a full international for Samoa against Fiji later that night at the same venue!
We all know that Origin has been killing everything around it for years. But I think it’s fair to say this year’s events illustrate we have reached a flashpoint. NRL players are paid truckloads of cash and they are not willing to put that at risk anymore for matches which date back to the part-time and even amateur eras.
How to react is the big question for all of us.
I am now absolutely convinced that State of Origin and international Rugby League should be completely separated from an eligibility point of view.
The Origin selection rules have been tightened so that it interstate football is closed to those who did not live in NSW or Queensland before the age of 13.
Origin will not become red versus blue. It will not be devalued. Its ‘magic’ is not under threat.
The rules for international sport are not as strict. The number of NRL players who would qualify for either of the states and a country other than Australia would run into the triple figures. Origin should no longer tie players to Australia.
Secondly, we need an international window for all countries, including England, around Origin time. Keep Australia off the international scene mid-year. Let them play amongst themselves. It would be wonderful if, 10 days before Origin I, we had every national team imaginable going into camp and playing games.
Australian terrestrial TV contracts are the main obstacle to this utopian scenario. Obviously, some players would then be forced to choose between state and country… but a relatively small number.