It concerns me there continues to be so much debate about changing the eligibility rules relating to rugby league’s greatest asset – the State of Origin series between New South Wales and Queensland.
Overnight the New Zealand Rugby League Chairman called for players to be eligible for both their country of birth in test matches, and also eligible to represent the State they first played senior football in Origin matches. It is a proposal often dismissed, but one worth consideration.
The State of Origin is the jewel in the crown of rugby league. Even though the first games are more than two months away, game one at Lang Park is sold out, and game two at Homebush is almost sold out as well, and when I last checked, even tickets for game three at Lang Park were scarce.
State of Origin has consistently been the highest rating sports program on free-to-air television, not only in Queensland and NSW, but nationally. Just imagine how more highly it would rate if every state showed Origin games at a civilised hour?
Origin’s position in the game must be protected at all costs. Any proposals that put the integrity of State of Origin, and State of Origin representation in particular, need to be considered with great care, but the issue cannot be allowed to drag on and on.
And the best way to end this annual debate is to clarify, once and for all, the issue of players born overseas (and especially Kiwi-born players) being allowed (or required) to choose whether or not they can be eligible for State of Origin selection.
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