They have no jurisdiction to do it.
Make no mistake – they have banned them and for some crazy reason the New Zealand Rugby League, Samoa, Tonga and the NRL have stood by and allowed this to happen. The game cannot allow this if they want to keep a shred of credibility for international rugby league.
The International Rugby League Federation’s rules state that all players must be released by their clubs five days before a ratified international test match. There is actually a clear precedent. In 2008 the Kiwis wanted to select Thomas Leuluai and Brent Webb, who were playing in the UK Super League. Wigan and Leeds refused to release them and the NZRL, under the leadership of then chairman Ray Hafferden, fought the clubs and the RLIF ruled the players be released to play, which they did. The only difference I can see here is that the NZRL is going to roll over and follow Doyle’s instructions rather than fight it. Why? Do they agree with Doyle or were they bullied into it?
I applaud the stance Doyle and the club took in sitting those six players – Manu Vatuvei, Ben Matulino, Bodene Thompson, Albert Vete, Sam Lisone and Konrad Hurrell – out of first grade against the Dragons. The club reacted appropriately and within the boundaries of their power in handing down that punishment. It got the desired result – a big win in public battle for the club and under-fire coach Andrew McFadden and an improved performance against the Dragons. I can also see the argument for these players to be left out of the Kiwis side as a result of their misbehaviour but, and here’s the key point, it is the Kiwi selectors who need to make that call – not Doyle and the Warriors. The club should have no say whatsoever.
You see it might be for genuine reasons that Doyle wants those players to miss the test this week but if he has the power to prevent them from playing what is stopping him from sitting Shaun Johnson out of the test because he doesn’t want to risk injury to the Warriors’ most valuable player? How will the NZRL or Kiwi league fans feel if come the next World Cup Doyle and the Warriors opt to not release key players then? For years clubs have ruled players out on medical grounds must to the frustration of the international game but the Warriors haven’t even tried to come up with a cover story. They have openly admitted to making a call that well exceeds their jurisdiction. Heck, are they going to ban those players from driving cars or visiting bars and then ask the police to ensure they stop them too?
It adds to what is already a farcical situation with Fijian Semi Radradra being picked by the Kangaroos. There are 16 professional NRL clubs in Australia so the fact the Kangaroos can rape and pillage a minnow nation’s stocks for their own gain is a travesty. Radradra wants to play for them – of course he does – he gets paid more than he could dream of wearing the white of Fiji. It isn’t a level playing field. This follows Anthony Milford being blocked from playing for Samoa with underhand tactics used to keep him sitting in the stands waiting for State of Origin selection next year or beyond.
The international game is a complete joke and rugby league is the laughing stock of the sporting world. Here are some other points that have helped make me think the sport is better off giving up even trying to play internationals.
- Kodi Nikorima will play at hooker for the Kiwis on Friday night but his younger brother Jayden will line-up in the Junior Kangaroos side to play the Junior Kiwis. Two brothers, two different nations apparently.
- Three Warriors players – Shaun Lane, Matt Allwood and Ken Maumalo have been selected in the NSW Residents side. How does Maumalo qualify for this when he isn’t and never has been a resident of NSW?
- Players can swap from one nation to another within a year – Milford for example could play for Samoa this weekend but change his mind and play for Australia at the end of the year.
- The NZRL released their team to play last night but there was no set time the team was announced, no press conference, no opportunity for journalists to ask questions on behalf of the fans about why Issac Luke was left out or what the NZRL thought of being told they can’t pick players etc. What other major sport would run an announcement of the national side like that and then cry because they don’t get a fair run with media coverage or are overlooked at the Halberg Awards?
Fans of other sports will look at these issues and laugh. Rugby league has a tough time getting credibility in New Zealand (and anywhere outside of Australia’s Eastern seaboard and the North of England) but when you see the embarrassment that it has heaped on itself with the very fixable problems above it is hard to put forward a counter argument.