Ever since the introduction of the Rugby League International Federation (the successor of the International Rugby League Board in 1998), the International game has been in a steady decline.
It’s inability to have set rules for
the code in every country the game is played in has been a minor issue for many
years, but the most burgeoning problem they have has been surrounding the one
thing of which there was never an issue before.
The one thing which it
would appear would be so crystal clear without any grey area whatsoever, the
most certain of all certainties.
International body began its existence in 1927, initially known as the Imperial
Rugby League Board. It contained representatives from Britain, New Zealand and
Australia. The big ideas of post-war French officials lead to the creation of
the International Rugby League Board in 1948. Paul Barriere was the chief of
French Rugby League at the time and he put forward plans for a World Cup. The
French provided the trophy and the venues for the first competition in
The International game blossomed and soon games were played in USA,
South Africa and Italy among other nations. By the late 1970’s, Papua New Guinea
had a test team. The game continued growing right up until the Superleague war
in Australia put International Rugby League in disarray.
In 1998, the
games governing body was again reformed, this time as the Rugby League
International Federation. In its time it has increased the number of member
countries to twelve, however with half of these nations all located in the
Oceania region, it has seen a lot of players leave the smaller islands to play
in the ‘big time’ in either New Zealand or Australia.
The RLIF believed
it needed to clearly define set rules for player eligibility, which had
previously followed the very practical and inflexible rule – You play for the
country you were born in.
Four core rules were created to define
eligibility, providing greater flexibility, but also creating great controversy
and confusion. While the core rules seem solid enough, all they have done is
taken a simple, obvious, clear-cut rule and muddied the waters in what can only
be believed to be a misguided attempt to improve the game
Internationally, by allowing prominent players born in either New
Zealand, England or Australia, to play for a weaker International
Sounds good in theory, but the RLIF insistence on flexibility has
all but muddied the waters and made the whole process a joke. It’s turned the
International game into a mess.
A player is eligible to play an
International game for:
1. A country he was born in
2. A country in
which either his parents or grand-parents were born
3. A country he has lived
in for at least 3 years prior to selection
4. A country he has gained senior
international honours in any sport
Players who qualify for dual
International representation are seen as taking the ‘easy way’ to International
level football by playing with their second nation so to speak, because they may
not have been good enough to break into the team representing the country they
were born in.
If a player born in Australia, but with Tongan heritage
decides to play for Tonga, he is not allowed to represent any other
….until after the next World Cup has finished, or two years have
passed since his last international game for Tonga.
Herein lies the
biggest issue with the entire guidelines. They are set this way to allow a
player to play International football, but to also play for his country of birth
down the track if he so wishes.
This concept entirely removes pride for
representing ones country, the once highest accolade a player could ever
achieve. It has cheapened the International game, essentially whoring it out in
a pathetic attempt to improve the quality of the game
And that has failed.
These rules are farcical and
borderline insane. There are many great ways this Federation can improve the
game Internationally, but this cheap pathetic ploy is getting out of control and
turning the game into a parody. There would be close to half of all senior Rugby
League players eligible to play for different nations to that of the one they
were born in.
These rules need to be scrapped and we need to go back to
common sense, for the sake of the game!