Rugby League


International game needs rigid rules: Furner

Canberra Raiders coach David Furner has urged rugby league to adopt permanent eligibility rules to end the New Zealand and State of Origin tug of war over some of the game's best young players.

Josh Papalii ended his representative uncertainty yesterday when he pledged his commitment to Queensland and Australia, despite being born in New Zealand.

The softly spoken 20-year-old decided to align with the Maroons because he played all of his junior rugby league in Queensland and moved to Australia when he was six.

Papalii had signed a letter of intent in August last year to play for New Zealand, however he admitted yesterday he didn't fully understand what the letter was for.

Furner backed Papalii's tough decision and praised the second-rower for showing composure while New Zealand and Queensland battled for his services.

Papalii was the third high profile player this year - along with James Tamou and Sam Kasiano - forced to decide between New Zealand or Australia and State of Origin.


The financial benefit of playing State of Origin far outweighs New Zealand Test payments.

NSW and Queensland players could pocket as much as $50,000 a match while the Kiwis get just $5000.

Papalii is in the unique position of having played for junior Queensland representative sides as well as playing for the junior Kiwis.

Papalii calmly announced his future and Furner - a former NSW second-rower and Kangaroos assistant coach - said it was time to take the pressure of the shoulders of young players.

''Do we need clear guidelines [for international eligibility] to help them out? I think we do,'' Furner said.

''I understand the monetary side of it, but first and foremost there has to be a guideline.

''The international needs to sit down and look at the solution … Origin is the pinnacle in our lives because it's NSW and Queensland and the rivalry, it keeps exploding.

''If the guidelines are in concrete, the younger players don't get in this position.

''You don't want to lose the international game, I don't know the solution yet.

''Papa [Papalii] has gone about it the right way, he should be comfortable. He got everyone involved to make sure his decision was right, he has the support of his family and the club.''

New Zealand had selected Papalii in its training squad for the Test against Australia in Townsville next month.

New Zealand Rugby League high-performance manager Tony Kemp said: ''I feel sorry for these kids being romanced by Origin''.

''I wish Josh all the best, he's made his decision and we want kids that want to play for New Zealand.

''But I'd like to see clear pathways for both countries which gives kids an opportunity to make an honest decision, and those pathways aren't there currently. It's based on money.''