A leaked e-mail has recently come to my attention written by GB RL boss and Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) board member Richard Lewis. It concerns International Rugby League eligibility rules and part of it is shown below:-
"the international eligibility rules are totally wrong. I and the whole of the RFL have tried on numerous occasions to get the rules changed at international board level. We have failed because Australia (in particular) and New Zealand have an advantage by keeping the rules as they are, so changes are constantly filibustered out"
It is from a reliable source and contains no great surprises. It certainly explains a lot.
It is very silly that Jarad Hayne should be allowed to play for Fiji in the World Cup then a year later turn out for Australia. Likewise Chris Bridge played for Ireland then England and many other examples could be given. Players should not be able to swap nations like they swap clubs. This sort of thing damages the credibility of international RL and discourages new nations.
Eligibility criteria should be strictly enforced by a strong, independent RLIF.
The RLIF should have it's own elected officials who represent international RL worldwide. It should be properly financed and administered by paid officials with the mandate to promote the interests of international rugby league throughout the world. Officials should not have vested interests and no countries e.g. Australia should have a veto.
International Rugby League is and should be much more than Australia, NZ and England.
The RLIF should coordinate the detailed planning involved in organising and promoting inclusive rugby league tournaments at all levels throughout the world. Regular matches could then be guaranteed and players could opt to play for smaller nations such as Fiji and Ireland without sacrificing their international careers.
In Europe, the Rugby League European Federation (RLEF) has made a good start and hopefully something similar can happen in the Asia/Pacific region. Players from the Pacific nations must be given the opportunity to play international rugby league for the country of their choice. They should not be forced to play for Australia and NZ or not at all
I sincerely doubt that the RLIF will ever be fully independent. The Australians will never allow smaller nations to out vote them. I hope I’m wrong