Enriching International Rugby League Part 2 – Fix the quagmire that is international eligibility!

The next step in the recovery of International Rugby League

This is part 2 of a 3 part series primarily focussing on those steps required for Rugby League to dominate internationally. The thoughts are an extrapolation of those first ventilated earlier this year in a previous blog.

Part 1 covered the Rugby League International Federation. Part 3 will provide some pragmatic ideas for getting it done.

According to the current eligibility criteria (set down by the RLIF) for International Rugby League a player is eligible to play an international match for:

  • the country of his birth;
  • the country in which either of his parents or any of his grandparents were born; or
  • the country which has been his principal place of residence for three years prior to his selection.

He can change his election after the end of the next World Cup and play for a different country if he so chooses.

New Zealand vs PNG - Photo by Digiarnie

New Zealand vs PNG – Photo by Digiarnie – CC-BY-SA-2.0

How do other sports do it?


According to the International Cricket Board, a player is eligible to play an international match for:

  • the country of his/her birth;
  • a country he/she can establish (for example, by possession of a passport) that he/she is a national of; or
  • a country he/she has been resident in for at least 183 days in the two years preceding for women and four years for men.

He or she can change their election four years after playing for a country or two years if returning to a developing or affiliate nation.

Rugby Union

The International Rugby Board stipulates that a player can play an international match for:

  • the country of his birth;
  • the country in which either his parents or any of his grandparents were born; or
  • the country of his residence the preceding three years prior to his selection.

Well that sounds exactly like Rugby League. The only difference is that a player cannot change allegiances (although there are some complications around representing a different country in an Olympic Games).


Football has the strongest eligibility requirements. FIFA requires that a player must hold the permanent nationality of the country he or she intends to play for. If the player has dual eligibility then in addition, the player must have one of the following associations with the country to maintain eligibility:

  • it is the country of his or her birth;
  • it is the country of his or her parents or grandparents birth;
  • he or she has lived continuously in that country for at least two years.

A player can change their country of allegiance but there are pretty stringent requirements for doing so.

It is interesting that when I started my research I assumed that Rugby League would have the loosest eligibility criteria by a country mile and while it does have the loosest criteria, it isn’t by that much. Probably unsurprisingly the stringency of eligibility requirements are directly proportional to the competitive nature of the sport’s international competition. FIFA has 209 member nations and can afford to have the strictest eligibility criteria in the world. Rugby League is essentially only played professionally in three countries. Despite this, I think that the RLIF should strike a balance between the strength of its eligibility criteria and the strength of the game internationally. As the game gets more competitive it should certainly look at reining in the ability for players to change their allegiances so easily between World Cups. At the moment it strikes at the credibility of the international game.

After full consideration of the eligibility criteria for International Rugby League I’m convinced that the only immediate action should be around State of Origin. Those of you who have read my previous thoughts on the matter will know that I think State of Origin is limiting the international game. The NRL needs to either throw the gates open and allow players to play State of Origin and for a country other than Australia or they should exclude players who are born in other countries from State of Origin. They have gone part of the way already by excluding players who were born in other countries and didn’t immigrate to Australia prior to their thirteenth birthday. That was an outstanding start. I think they should go the whole way and exclude those born in other countries.

They must be doing some things right. This was the Fijian train on side recently picked to play Samoa on 3 May 2014:

Kevin Naiqama, Marika Koroibete, Lote Tuqiri, Sisa Waqa, Eto Nabuli, Alipate Tani, Aaron Groom, Ashton Sims (Captain), James Storer, Kane Evans, Jason Bukuya, Korbin Sims, Semi Radradra, Apisai Koroisau, Vitale Roqica, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Peni Botiki, Kali Tani, Tikiko Noke, Atunaisa Turagaiviu and Osea Sadrau.

11 current first grade players. Wow!

What was sweeter than Jelly Bread?

  • The Broncos. They are extracting every last ounce out of their talent (even Ben Barba’s confidence is on the improve) and their left side defence (especially Jack Reed) is almost impregnable. They could have easily been 7-0.
  • Sam Tomkins. He is the real deal. He has taken a few rounds to find his feet and if the Warriors start to fire he will become Billy Slater 2.0.
  • The crowds. Buoyed mainly by the massive crowds for Souths v Bulldogs (43,255) and Parramatta v Wests (50,668) the crowd average was still a very healthy 21,176 per game for the round. That was without a home game for Brisbane as well. They are expecting this weekend to be a big one as well.
  • The PNG Hunters. They kept rolling with a win over the Sunshine Coast Falcons. Currently ensconced in fourth place after 5 wins, 1 draw and 2 losses. Supplied two players to NRL clubs this season and most importantly only positive press from home matches. There audition for a future NRL team is on track.
  • Baseball. If you follow a team in the MLB (which I do) there is a game on nearly every day for 8 solid months (including spring training and playoffs). Does it get any better than that?
Scooter Gennett of the Milwaukee Brewers - Photo by Aloriggan

Scooter Gennett of the Milwaukee Brewers – Photo by AlorigganCC-BY-SA-3.0

What wasn’t?

  • The Cowboys. JT won that game for the Cows at least 2 or 3 times. There is something not quite gelling with the Cows. Even putting aside the obstruction and knock on calls leading to one of the key Manly tries, the Cowboys made crucial errors, gave away penalties and lapsed defensively (especially on the right side of the field which leaked all 5 tries) at all the wrong times. They were up 20-10 with all the momentum, 13 minutes to go, no DCE and Anthony Watmough on the bench through injury…they needed to put that one away. The Cowboys are in grave danger of squandering the club career of one of the greatest halfbacks of all time.
  • The Melbourne Machine has travelled along at an elite level for many years now. Apart from 2010 when all their points were deducted for salary cap breaches, the Storm have been in the top 4 since 2006 and last missed the 8 in 2002. That was so long ago Jason Stevens, Chris McKenna and Gorden Tallis were playing for the Australian team. It can’t be said that the wheels have fallen off the Storm bandwagon but they certainly aren’t looking like the team of previous years. Sitting just outside the 8, they could have easily been 1-6 with narrow wins over the Sea Eagles, the Panthers and the Dragons. I think they are missing Gareth Widdop. Conversely, St George are that much better with him in their side.

Other random thoughts 

  • Benji Marshall is returning from Rugby Union. The naysayers are out. Comparing him to Sonny Bill Williams and Israel Folau is a little unfair though. Sonny Bill Williams left Rugby League at the age of 23 and by his own admission kicked rocks in the backline and acclimated to the game with two seasons for Toulon in the Top 14 (France’s top Rugby Union competition) and subsequently with Canterbury in the ITM Cup (NZ domestic competition) prior to playing Super Rugby. Likewise Israel Folau is playing in the outside backs in Rugby Union in a role which is very similar to the one he played in Rugby League. He is also only 25 years old and spent the best part of two years cooling his heels in Australian Rules. He is in his prime. Benji Marshall is 29 years old, played 11 seasons of NRL and has 201 first grade games, 25 test matches for NZ and 4 All Stars matches on his resume. He was trying to make the leap from Rugby League half to Rugby Union half, a significantly more difficult role than making the leap to the outside backs that Williams and Folau have made while in the prime of their careers with many less miles on the odometer. If anything his situation reminds me more of Shane Heal when he left for the NBA as a 26 year old but after riding the pine for the Minnesota Timberwolves for most of the 1996/97 season left the NBA for a situation where he could get more playing time.
  • WWBD. The early mail is that Marshall will land with the Sharks, the Storm or the Bulldogs (although the Cowboys are being mentioned too). I think the Storm would be a good fit for him. They are really missing a foil for Cooper Cronk. The Broncos could sure use him as well. I think he still has plenty to give. More than anything he was stale with the Tigers. It wasn’t a good situation for anyone, just ask Tim Sheens. I think it would be a mistake for him to go to the Sharkies. They are in a mess at the moment. If he took a six month contract in Melbourne it would be a perfect fit. He needs to compete for another premiership and lift his Benji stock. At the end of the year he could land a three year contract with someone and play out his career somewhere else. Short term pain for long term gain. I hope that is what he does. If we were thinking of Benji only, it would be best for him to go somewhere where he won’t be viewed as the answer to all their problems. Somewhere like Newcastle, with Wayne Bennett would be great for him. The Storm also fits that criteria.
  • The Kiwi team are looking pretty thin on the ground. Losing Foran was a big blow. Losing SBW will also hurt. No Pritchard. No Isaac Luke. Stacey Jones might need to dust of his boots.

Bill James Award

Jarryd Hayne – Run Metres – 146m, Tries – 2, Try Assists – 1, Tackle Breaks – 7, Tackles – 4, Offloads – 1, Line Breaks – 2, Errors – 2, Penalties Conceded – 1 and BFFs – Semi Radradra, Will Hopoate, Corey Norman, Chris Sandow 2.0, Nathan Peats, Manu Ma’u, Nathan Peats and Brad Arthur.

Tips for Round 8

Home teams first

Dragons v Roosters – Roosters (Roosters have won four of their last five games against the Dragons and will build on last week’s win against the Sharks)

Storm v Warriors – Storm (The Storm always struggle against the Warriors but home teams have won a large proportion of games this year plus this is a perfect bounce back game for the Storm)

Broncos v Rabbitohs – Broncos (The Broncos are greatly improved this year and the Rabbitohs are very hit and miss. I expect the big Anzac Day crowd to get the Broncos across the line)

Sharks v Panthers – Sharks (People are forgetting that the Sharks have been heavily depleted for most of the year. They get Beau Ryan back this week and have Paul Gallen back for the second week in a row. I think their strength at home will lift them against the inconsistent Panthers)

Cowboys v Eels – Cowboys (It is early in the season but it is getting pretty desperate in Townsville. I expect they will derail the resurgent Eels)

Bulldogs v Knights – Bulldogs (Ladder leaders too strong at home)

Sea Eagles v Raiders – Sea Eagles (Manly lose Foran but get DCE back and will have enough to knock the Raiders off at home)

Tigers v Titans – Tigers (The Tigers bandwagon to keep rolling along but this one will be close. If the Tigers go into this one expecting a repeat of their flogging of the Titans in round 2 they will be sadly mistaken. Titans will aim up for this one. Plus it won’t be in full Summer heat.)

Last week – 3/8

Season so far – 25/56

Question for you

Any other ideas regarding International Rugby League?

Other Link

An interesting link regarding international rugby league:

Rugby League Planet

Stay Tuned

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode on Thursday, 1 May 2014 titled ‘Enriching International Rugby League Part 3 – Getting it done!’


3 thoughts on “Enriching International Rugby League Part 2 – Fix the quagmire that is international eligibility!

  1. Pingback: Enriching International Rugby League Part 3 – Getting it done! | The Game of Sport

  2. Pingback: NRL Final Trimester Report Part 3 | The Game of Sport

  3. Pingback: Finally some rumblings from the RLIF | The Game of Sport

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