Origin eligibility ruling still raises questions
Origin debate ... Queensland's Greg Inglis Photo: Getty Images
Given the space this column has devoted to State of Origin eligibility during the past 12 months, it's as plain as the nose on the face of someone with quite a big nose that we have to address the ARLC's decision on the issue this week.
The first aspect of the decision – that you must live in a state before the age of 13 in order to be eligible for that state – is interesting in the way it surprised everyone.
Have you ever known rugby league to keep a secret like that right up until it was announced?
Once again, the commission has shown some grace by conducting its investigations, taking recommendations, and handing down decisions away from the glare of the media and the confusion of incremental leaks.
As Discord has said before, this sort of united, organised behaviour is bad for beat reporters like us but good for the game.
OK, a few questions thrown up by the ruling.
1) Can Greg Inglis still have his offspring born in Queensland and qualify for the Maroons if that child continues to live south of the border?
The question of what constitutes “living” in a state has not been explained. If you get straight out of hospital after being welcomed into the world and are then whisked to another state, who do you play for?
2) What happens to players raised in other Australian states?
This is not a problem, in my view. If you were raised in Western Australia or the Northern Territory, why should you play for NSW or Queensland? Wouldn't it be great to see those states play curtain-raisers to Origin with NRL players involved? NSW and Queensland nicking those players previously was unseemly and destructive.
3) Will clubs steal Kiwi players under the age of 12?
New Zealand high performance manager Tony Kemp seems to think so but there appears to be a misapprehension across the Tasman that the clubs work for NSW and Queensland. They do not. Club recruiters work for their clubs and there is no reason they will start signing tiny kids to help State Of Origin teams. If clubs don't sign 11-year-olds from New Zealand now, these new rules provide absolutely no incentive for them to start.
4) Can players represent an Australian state and a foreign country in the same year?
Sadly, the answer still appears to be "no". What the ruling has done is ease the problem that caused us to back that change. It would have been nice – but for the time being this regulation will slow the terrible trend of players who go to Australia purely to play professional rugby league then representing Australia. That was hurting the game and now won't happen as often. If you move with your family for economic reasons at a young age, you can play for Origin. If you go because an NRL club offered you a contract, you represent where you come from. There's beauty in it.
5) Does the rule apply to Australia?
OK, you still have to be eligible to play for Australia if you want to take part in Origin. But what if you moved here after the age of 13 and still want to represent Australia? Will you be eligible? Certainly, on residency grounds, you will be. That rule applies equally to all countries. So we'll have the completely new situation of men turning out in green and gold who are unable to ever play Origin! The first man to do this will be one helluva player, though.
6) So, can Feleti Mateo, Akuila Uate, Jarryd Hayne and Tariq Sims go back to representing other countries at the World Cup if they miss out on Australian selection?
They haven't told us yet. Please let us know. And please let the answer be “yes”.
Discord also likes – and campaigned in our own small way for – the abolition of Benefit of the Doubt.
But how about what they've replaced it with?
If a referee makes a series of try calls on the field that are subsequently over-ruled by the video ref, but is otherwise officiating well, are we supposed to overlook it?
Will it count against him in appointments? Will it dent his confidence to “go public” with his opinion only to be over-ruled repeatedly?
Personally, I believe the more up-front and transparent we are at all stages of the decision-making process, the better.
But these are all issues worth considering.
On the shoulder charge, my understanding is that very little will actually change next season – in what will be seen by many as a softening of a stance that was unwelcome in many areas.
As long as the arm is out and not tucked in, all the same hits will occur. It's like challenging a kicker. If you get there too late or don't wrap your arms around him, you're in trouble but people still do it.
Sonny, just remember to have your arm out when you smash blokes and you're sweet.
Also, unless there is high contact, the incidents will not even be reviewed on Monday.
Let's go to the comments ...
Last week's column appeared in, at last count, three forms so I understand it was hard for you to leave comments. You can find an unedited version of it over at stevemascord.com.
You'll find all the responses to the previous week's column there too.
SamDavisJr said we should stop saying "star". It's all relative. They're not all stars in the context of the NRL but if you are a first grader, you are a star in the context of the wider community. Sorry mate, I'm gonna keep using it. They're stars to me.
Stojo01 supported my point about press conferences being pointless if no one asks a question.
Ian is one of a band of readers who responds to anything in the column (since it moved to the Herald) by saying "rugby league is dying". If you say so, Ian.
Here's the forum.
Here's the podcast.