A rule change in State of Origin eligibility which will
see fewer Kiwi players defect to Australia has been greeted as
a "really positive outcome" by New Zealand Rugby League.
From next year, no player will be eligible to play for New
South Wales or Queensland unless he has lived in that state
before the age of 13, or unless he is the son of an Origin
player. Previously, players could be selected for the state
in which they played their first senior game.
The rule will prevent New Zealand teenagers playing in
Australia from being lured by the prestige and pay packet of
Origin football and being forced to turn their back on the
country of their birth.
The issue has been a hot button in league circles in recent
times, with numerous young New Zealanders being targeted by
by State of Origin selectors. The defection of James Tamou,
who had previously declared his desire to represent New
Zealand before playing for New South Wales and Australia this
year incurred particular ire on this side of the Tasman.
Under the new rule Tamou, who moved with his family to
Australia when he was 13, would have been ineligible for
Origin selection and would probably have turned out for the
NZRL chief executive Jim Doyle believed the new rule would
have a direct correlation with New Zealand retaining talent
at international level.
"It's a really positive outcome. Now it becomes very clear to
everybody, whereas previously there was a little bit of
ambiguity," he said.
"There's no doubt New Zealand create really good rugby league
players. There will be players that go through our systems
here and go across there at 16 or 17 and end up with one of
the clubs there, but they'll now play for the Kiwis rather
than play State of Origin because they won't be eligible.
"Which, to me, is the right thing because their origin of
state is not New South Wales or Queensland."
Australian Rugby League commission chairman John Grant said
preserving the sanctity of the "unique" competition was the
driving force behind the rule change.
"State of Origin is an incredibly important part of the game,
and the heart of the concept is a person's state of origin,"
he said. "It is fundamental therefore that the concept is
preserved on that basis."
The cut-off age of 13 was fine by Doyle, who said NRL clubs
were not targeting players of such a young age.
"If you look at the number of kids that transfer from here
across to Australia to play rugby league, they generally
don't go at the young age, they go at 15, 16, 17 or 18.
"If they go across at a younger age, generally it's because
their parents are moving there for work-related reasons
rather than going for rugby league."
It's too young to identify, 'this person's going to be a star
so let's get him across so he can play State of Origin'."
Other amendments announced yesterday by the ARL commission
included shoulder charges being outlawed, and the scrapping
of the controversial benefit of the doubt system previously
used by video referees when awarding tries.