The Rugby League tri-nations competition is on the cusp of descending into a total farce on two fronts.

Firstly, the attitude towards violent and dangerous incidents being taken by the “judiciary process” for the tri-nations matches could not contrast more sharply with the NRL judiciary process. That is not new – the double standards are just becoming more embarrassing for the game.

Potentially dangerous tackles and other incidents that are not even sent to the judiciary for a hearing in the tri-nations would attract suspensions in the NRL.

But the real farce centres around the “eligibility” of players to represent one country or other. And what a total farce, and a joke, it has become. But, again, it is not new – the “rules” governing eligibility have always been dodgy.

The issue even made front page news in today’s Australian following confirmation that the Kiwis hooker, Nathan Fein – who was born in Mount Isa – has been allowed to play for the Kiwis on the premise that his grandmother was born in New Zealand.

It now turns out that it was his great-grandmother who was born in New Zealand! Under the international rules of rugby league, a player can be chosen for a country he was not born in if a parent or grandparent was born in that country.

All hell has broken loose as a result. The Kiwis risk losing the points from their only win in the series against Great Britain last weekend. Then the NZRL Chairman – in the heat of the moment – threatened to pull the Kiwis out of the competition.

The eligibility rules have long been a joke. Adrian Lam, an Australian citizen, was allowed to play state of origin for Queensland, but represent Papua New Guinea. Any number of Australian-born and NZ-born players have been allowed to “choose” which country they are eligible for.

The bloke you really have to feel sorry for is Nathan Fein. What player worth his salt would give up the opportunity to play at the international level?

Now he risks the humiliation of being thrown out of the competition.

Why bother? The rules are, and long have been, a farce. The body that administers them is an even greater farce. Get the series out of the way – and then overhaul the eligibility rules, and put the cleaners through the International Rugby League Board, and the most hapless (or hopeless) sporting body in Australia, the Australian Rugby League!

Peter Fray

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