There is no greater honour than representing your nation. That is what they keep trying to tell us anyway. The passion of playing for your country, joining together as a team representing an entire nation who…oh hang on, I’ve got a better offer elsewhere. I’m off. Do your best without me. I might even play against you lot!
Welcome to international Rugby League, one of the few sports in the entire world that allows you to switch nations at will.
The RLIF recently changed rules regarding nation swapping. On one hand they extended the residency period from 3 to five years, meaning that an Australian for example can’t go over and play for the New Zealand Warriors for three years and declare that he is now a Kiwi. This was a much needed change to the eligibility rules which, funnily enough, I think will help French players from getting blocked from their national side by imports more than anyone.
The second rule change they made was very typical of Rugby League, and exposed the mentality of those who call the shots in the game.
The vast majority of the Rugby League playing world were officially declared as “second tier nations”. The RLIF actually called them that. If you qualify for Australia, New Zealand or England and you don’t get selected, you can then switch to a “second tier nation”…which means any other Rugby League playing nations on earth you might also qualify for.
With one simple rule change the RLIF declared most nations as being “second tier” and then kicked loyalty and passion at international level in the face by encouraging nation swapping!
If this all sounds ridiculous, its because it is. How can you take any of this seriously? How can Rugby League be taken seriously around the world when its own governing body declares that three nations are officially more important than everyone else?
I recent read a quote by the head of the Australian Rugby Union’s CEO Bill Pulver who said that Rugby League had no rules regarding eligibility. It caught my attention. You see, Rugby Union types consider nation swapping that happens in Rugby League to be “no rules at all”, and I completely see where they are coming from.
When you see Australian born and raised Tyson Frizell play for Wales, then play for New South Wales, then Australia, and still keep the door open to play for Wales in next years World Cup, you have to wonder how much these international jerseys actually mean to players and administrators.
For years I have been saying the same thing. Why should the rest of the world take international Rugby League seriously if it is clear Rugby League doesn’t take it seriously?
Either international Rugby League is a sacred battle ground between nations, played by players who have pride and loyalty for their nations…or its a complete shit show where anything goes and you just run out for any one that will give you a run.
If you are reading this web site you are a hardcore Rugby League supporter. You know the ins and outs of the game, of player movements and of rule changes. You’re are less than 1% of sports viewers around the world. Most people don’t know or care about any of that stuff. They just want to watch a good, exciting sporting event.
When they watch international Rugby League and they see players wearing different jerseys, swapping from year to year, they don’t drill down into it any further than thinking “Oh, this is a load of bullshit” and they don’t pay Rugby League a second thought.
Until Rugby League takes itself seriously, no one else will. Until Rugby League stops thinking of the rest of the world as being “second tier”, no one else will consider it a first class international sport.
Over to you Rugby League International Federation….
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com