Toa Samoa after beating Tonga in Hawaii last month
BY Lance Polu
APIA, SAMOA – TUESDAY 20 SEPTEMBER 2016: Samoa Rugby League has welcomed the proposed revamp of rugby league’s eligibility rules as a positive step for everyone.
The Rugby League International Federation has approved plans that would allow eligible players to nominate both a tier one and tier two nation to represent, and the ability to switch between the countries multiple times within a World Cup cycle, with no stand-down period.
President of Rugby League Samoa, Tagaloa Fa’afouina Su’a hails “the collective RLIF Board effort to grow the game rather than limiting to just the Tier 1 nations.”
“Now there are calendars in place for many nations to play against each other not only for exposure but for the organic growth of the game reaching potential markets that have an appetite for Rugby League,” Su’a told Talamua.
Under the change, Polynesian players would also be free to play State of Origin whilst remaining eligible for their native island country.
Toa Samoa coach Matt Parish has long called for changes to eligibility rules and said the changes were a massive boost for Pacific teams and the international game.
“Players shouldn’t be penalised for having to pick (between tier one and two nations) and that’s what has happened in the past. I think the Pacific nations are going to be a real force to be reckoned with in future with such a positive rule change,” he said.
Mr Parish said Pacific nations couldn’t match the financial rewards offered by Australia, New Zealand and England, who would still get their pick of the best talent.
But he said the new rules would immediately open the international door to a handful of top NRL players.
“And while that doesn’t sound much, you put two or three really, really good players in any team (and) it can change the whole balance of your whole squad,” he said.
“Obviously from a Toa Samoa point of view, if we had Anthony Milford for example playing for us in 2014 (in the Four Nations) I’ve got no doubt we would have won the first two games – and thus put us in the final – and that’s all these teams need is one or two players of that quality to come into your team.
Samoa is celebrating 30 Years Journey of Rugby League with a first ever full International Test Match not only in Samoa between Toa Samoa and Fiji Bati at Apia Park 8 October 2016.