By Matthew Brown, Date: 10/9/14

Coming at the end of this year is one of the most exciting tournaments for international Rugby League fans, The Four Nations. Instead of it being a true indication of how far International Rugby League has come since the 2013 World Cup, we yet again have many cases where the richer are getting richer and the poorer poorer.

That’s right…I’m talking about players switching nations at free will. This week, the Australian, NZ & English teams have named their squads and there are at least a dozen players who have been named in their squads or have pulled on another nations jersey already.

In case you’ve missed it, here are a few names of players who have changed/on their way to changing their national allegiances in the last 12 months;

Brad takairangi – Cook Islands to NZ
Aiden Guerra- Italy to QLD/Australia
Konrad hurrell – Tonga to NZ.
Daniel Tupou- Tonga to NSW/Australia
Fa’amanu brown – Samoa to NZ.
Sosaia feki – Tonga to NZ
Saliva havili – Tonga to NZ
Suaia Matagi – Samoa to NZ
Sauaso Sue – Samoa to NZ.
Anthony Milford- Samoa to QLD/Australia.

As the rules stand, players are allowed to switch full international teams once each World Cup cycle. This becomes very complicated because this year’s Four nations has a lot of players who are being fought over for their national allegiance. What complicates the problem even more is that State of Origin is tempting players to switch to Australia because players MUST play for a State and also Australia.

One argument is to allow players to play for a 2nd tier nation if they miss out on NZ, Australia or England which will help keep them strong… this completely wrong! If players are allowed to swap in a heartbeat then we will still be in the same position where the Big 3 will stay dominate because they are ‘artificially’ strengthening their ranks with players stolen from other national teams.

So how do we fix it?

The way to fix it is simple, players when they make their debut for an international team in a major tournament or World Cup MUST stick with that nation for the rest of their playing careers…no ifs or buts!

This rule will ONLY come into effect if the player has played in the following tournaments for a particular nation;
• World Cup Qualifiers
• World Cup
• Pacific Cup
• Atlantic Cup
• Four Nations Tournament
• European Cup/Bowl/Shield

Players will have plenty of time to choose who they wish to play for. Players WILL NOT be forced to a nation in the following matches/tournaments or situations.
• Age Group/Development National Teams (e.g. Schoolboys, U/18s,20s etc).
• State of Origin Development Teams
• International Friendlies (e.g. Anzac Test).
• International 9s tournaments (e.g. Cabramatta 9s).

So let’s use an example;

A 17 year old boy of 3 nationalities (Australia, NZ & Tongan decent) is born in NSW. If he is chosen for the NSW U/18s and U/20s, he IS NOT bound to Australia for life. He also plays for the Junior Kiwis and says he wants to play for the Kiwi’s…he is STILL NOT bound for either NZ or Australia. He then plays in an international Friendly for Tonga, he is still not bound to that nation for life.

He then plays in 4 World Cup qualifying games for Tonga, Tonga don’t make their world cup…is he stuck with Tonga for life?…Yes he is! The reason being is because the individual has elected to play for an Open Aged men’s team in an RLIF sanctioned official tournament. The individual cannot change or elect to play for another nation because he elected Tonga as his nation of preference.

So in summary, players SHOULD be forced to pick one nation for life, but ONLY when they make their debut in an official International tournament. This will force players to choose wisely and commit to a nation knowing full well that once they play in an authorized International competition, they CANNOT jump ship later on. They will have plenty of time to make their decision on which nation they wish to play for and take the monopoly and influence Australia and New Zealand has in International football!