JARRARD POTTER: Let's see some pride put back into the national jersey
FOR years, rugby league fans have been perplexed, annoyed and downright angered by the merry-go-round that is representative selection.
How can a footballer wear the national strip of Fiji, Samoa, Italy or the USA for one tournament, only to be seen in the green and gold of Australia or the black of New Zealand for the next?
It's almost to be expected in modern rugby league that there's no loyalty between teams, but with national representation, it should be the purest, highest form of the game.
The way it stands now, it's nothing but a joke, and with the Rugby League International Federation set to loosen eligibility criteria for tier-two nations, such at Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea, the greater grey area makes the situation beyond funny.
How can countries expect to build pride in their national team when NRL mercenaries, who aren't good enough to make the team of their country of birth, farm out their services to countries they qualify eligibility for through relatives?
If rugby league is going to become a genuine international sport, there needs to be more than two dominant teams, and developing rugby league countries won't grow if they become nothing more than training paddocks for NRL stars who want to play for island nations as a stepping stone to playing for Australia or New Zealand.
BILL NORTH: Leaving door ajar makes sense in this professional landscape
THE decision to relax eligibility rules for tier two nations is a win for the health of rugby league.
It's only fair that these countries, hamstrung by miniscule resources, can still access players ultimately striving for the bright lights - and match payments - of State of Origin or a 'Big Three' guernsey.
While it does swing the door open to some players with tenuous links, at worst it helps close the gap at major tournaments and give these teams more crowd-pulling power with drawcard names.
As it is, the RLIF is tightening its grip by extending the residency qualifying period from three years (currently used by FIFA and IOC) to five years - in the wake of the Semi Radradra selection furore - to prevent the Big Three from stockpiling talent and further dominating the rugby league landscape.
These eligibility changes will only serve to benefit smaller nations and ensure a greater proportion of the best players will be in action at major tournaments, while guaranteeing Australia can keep pumping out its strongest homegrown team.
The fact this move has received unanimous support from the game's 18 full member nations is proof this idea makes sense. It won't jeopardise Origin or the 'Big Three', and simply goes towards helping promote the sport on a global scale.