International Origin – What Did We Learn?

Daniel Andruczyk

Friday the 10th of June saw one of the “newer” innovations in Rugby League come to fruition. I have it in quotation marks because in reality its not a new innovation in Rugby League. The International Origin match played in Leeds saw the England Lions team take on an Exiles team, the exiles team was meant to be made up of Australians and New Zealanders. The Exiles in a last minute dash were able to overcome the England team 16 to 12.

Overall as a game of Rugby League I enjoyed the game. I thought it was pretty good. For me it flowed well, two teams with different styles went up against each other and the game was close till the end. The only thing that sullied it for me was the refereeing. I thought it was very ordinary with both sides hard done by. The Exiles with their last try came off a clear forward pass from what I saw and on the flip side the Exiles should have had a try allowed.

There has been a mixed reaction to this game from across the Rugby League Spectrum. The English Fans saying that they finally had a good mid year game that pushed the England team, Australian fans as always have come out and ridiculed the game, that England can’t compete with Australian has beens etc.. The truth I think is that the truth fall somewhere else. In reality the game has now brought England down the same line that Australia and New Zealand have been doing now for a good 25 years. It only serves to damage the sport.

What did we Learn?

Let me just say now, from the outset I have been against this game. But not for the reasons most people will think. In many ways I am against it for the same reasons I want to see State of Origin change in Australia. In the end the game does nothing for the international game, in fact damages it, and it now have players doing the old country box dance like they don in Australia.

So what did we learn, we learned two things. First that an understrength England with 4-5 of its top notch players not playing, some who were never going to be released by their Australian clubs (usual problem), had some problems playing a team, which lets face it is still damn good. Second Despite what people say the Exiles team probably would compete with Australia and New Zealand, so I don’t think the English need to be too disappointed in that respect. I am sure there will be a lot of people who will argue with me about this but I say yadah, yadah, yadah. Just because they are playing in England does not mean they still aren’t good enough. Actually its this attitude from Australian fans and selectors which I think is hurting International Rugby League, but more on that later.

England just Like the Antipodeans

But the thing that disappoints me the most is that now England has gone down the path of Australia. We have seen how a player of Akiula Uate’s calibre can be easily corrupted into playing for NSW and thus switching his allegiances, and yes he is now an Aussie and not a Fijian, and I will attempt to explain this later. Though out through Injury, Danny Brough, who played for Scotland last year in the European Cup, has switched to England. Now this means he cannot play in the end of year tri-Nations or the World Cup … if the RLIF is consistent.

And why is he doing this? Well because he wants to play quality games against quality teams and he does not get that with Scotland and this game, just like State of Origin, is the only place he can get it. The fact that no comprehensive international schedule exists for the sport is just abysmal. Its why players do the switch, there are only 2-3 nations that compete… ney are “allowed” to complete and so they will end up skimming the cream of the crop to maintain their dominance, they fear that someone other than themselves may actually compete with them!

The Exiles team underlined this. Australia has a strict policy of selecting platers only playing in Australia, no other sport does this, soccer has its players all over the world and they can still be selected for their nation. What this selection criteria does is that it forces out players that are still good enough to play in the national team out, players who could still take the place of flip floppers. Every year there is an outcry that in Australia there is a lack of one kind of quality player of the other, and people make the observation that there are many quality players in the UK, and they are quality, so why the hell not use them? This way you have genuine Aussies in the Aussie team and players from the developing nations don’t have to jump ship.

State of Origin

But the Gorilla in the room is State of Origin. Lets face it, its like that drunk in the corner that has drunk to much but you are scared to take the bottle of whiskey away because you are not sure how he’ll react. People are terrified to change it in any way because they are scared that its flaws will be exposed. I have talked about this many many times in past articles, so will try and summarise things here.

State of Origin is a hangover from a bygone era. Its when you had the mid year test tours and Origin was a genuine selection game between the NSWRL and QRL on who would make the team. Things started to change in 1988 when basically the NSWRL hijacked things and started to make it a “Nationalised” game. With the effective downgrading of the QRL and then with the outcome of the Super League with the English switching to Summer Rugby League, the tours, or matches changed to the end of the year. So Why didn’t Origin also change? Origin was a selection criteria for the Australian team and hence why still today you have to be only eligible for Australia to play Origin.

Money is the big issue though. One of the big reasons why players do the country switch is that they get paid extra money to play the rep games. But at $6000 per game as I understand it it, is it such a big incentive? I mean a player sitting at $250,000 per year is earning $8333 per game, and most of the players in Origin and Australian team will be on that, so does the extra $18000 really make that much of a difference.

If origin were to move to the end of the year and other internationals were played at the same time where players were payed though the RLIF to rep their countries this would give players the incentive to stay with their first country of choice rather than jump ship for very flimsy eligibility rules. State of Origin basically is a carrot to bribe players to play for Australia. and I will say it here, as much as I am a blues man and love to see the Maroon loose… State of Origin is no better than any other NRL game through the season. The intensity I don’t think is all that much more and the quality of the play is not that much better.

Not a New Concept

The Exiles concept in reality is not a new one… Rugby league, like the Barbarians in Union, has the “Other Nationalities” team which played for many many years. Why didn’t we resurrect this name, play on a great tradition in our sport. The other nationalities then could at least legitimately use nations other than just Australia and New Zealand in the team… well lets be honest many of those players in the team actually play for Samoa, Tonga, hell pat Richards plays for Ireland! Why not actually celebrate that fact, than hide it as oh its an Australian and Kiwi team. Brough should have been playing for the Exiles as far as I am concerned. There were none to the PNG stars that are in England, so what they are not worthy of getting a better game? What happened to the French players, why do they get excluded?

As far as I am concerned the Exiles concept was very badly thought out and executed in what it did for the sport and in the end will do more damage to the International Game.

Psychiatrist Please!

The solution to England woes internationally is one od Psychology. England tend to go into matched defeated, you see it from their fans, they try and make excuses almost from before the ball is kicked. The team needs to be psychologically fixed and that is where having a meaningful schedule of matched where they get used to winning will help, either that or a shrink to fix them. But I gest, I despite everything things come in cycles, there will be a time when England will dominate once more, hell look at New Zealand.

Really, in the end the way to fix things is from the ground up, that mean the RLIF standing up, re-organizing the sport, providing a meaningful schedule for all nation with regional and trans-continental tournaments. They need to have an independent, professional body that is able to get funding of the game independently of the ARL, NZRL, FFRXIII and RFL.


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24 Responses to “International Origin – What Did We Learn?”

  1. dragons4eva says:


    I always love to hear what you have to say. You bring things into perspective and shed a new light on things. I do however want to ask a few questions and make a few comments.

    “If origin were to move to the end of the year and other internationals were played at the same time where players were payed though the RLIF to rep their countries this would give players the incentive to stay with their first country of choice rather than jump ship for very flimsy eligibility rules”.

    Just out of curiosity would an International Sporting board pay players to represent national teams? I’m not going against what you’ve said but i’m just curious that’s all.

    “As far as I am concerned the Exiles concept was very badly thought out and executed in what it did for the sport and in the end will do more damage to the International Game”.

    In my opinion Druzik i think the Inter. Origin match is more well planned out than SOO in Australia. England gets a good mid season international and by the sounds of it they’re playing France in October. Plus (hopefully) the players who ARE eligible for Australia & NZ who don’t normally get picked while in SL might have a case to be picked for their teams while playing in this Origin match. Hopefully the RFL do not forget their closest national rivals and still play internationals against them.

    As for SOO in Australia i completely agree with you. It needs a complete overhaul by the RLIF.

    By the way i’m surprised we haven’t heard a blog by you on the RLIF changes? Will you be realising one soon or you aren’t sure?

    Anyways good to hear from you take care

    • druzik says:

      OK, I’ll try and answer your questions as I can.

      OK, So the International Body should provide the funds necessary for national teams to be able to pay the players, I think I didn’t make that too clear. So Basically any full international a player plays he will get paid a set rate through that countries governing body which would have got the money through the RLIF or Regional governing RL Federation. Its a trickle down effect I suppose.

      Thats just it, its not an international. England did not have their full team in there, if they did I think they would have won easily, the Int Origin I think does more damage for them as they will only play as a unified team in the 4 nations. At least with the French test the clubs had to release players like Ellis and Burgess and so they had a full test team that got to play together at least once before the 4 Nations. I fear this years 4 nations will be an even bigger disaster for them because they don’t have that Unity.

      The match against France is not the full team but the “Knights” team which is basically the academy team. See here is the problem, International RL is just so disjointed and all over the place, no one bar a couple of countries actually give a stuff about it and they all think they have to go and do what the aussies do… which is wrong. What the aussies are doing is taking themselves further and further away from the sport of Rugby League. As I keep saying in 10 years time there will be no rugby League in Australia, it will be the NRL and it will look like nothing that the rest of the world plays… we will be another AFL or NFL.

      And as you say, England has so many nations that can play internationals around them now. Why not start having more and more meaningful matches there build up those nations. Everyone is sooooo worried about Australia and new Zealand that they forget about everyone else who is struggling.

      Well, I have said a lot on it on other forums and am waiting to see what Carter actually does, that and am trying to have a chat with him. But in summary I think overall nothing will change, its same ol, same ol in my opinion

      • dragons4eva says:

        Yeah i guess you’re right Druzik. I know the I.O isn’t the most ideal game but i guess we have two different opinions about it.

        As with the French game are you sure its the knights? On the French website they said they’re playing a Full international against the English? I dunno just what i read.

        Also with Carter that’s fair enough. Wait until to see what he does i suppose.

      • druzik says:

        That is what I have heard, is’ts the knight against France. I hope I am wrong.

        well they are my opinions, like yours. Its a debate and exchanging ideas is what its about.

  2. Ashley says:

    The only thing we learned from the game is that McNamara has no tactical witt and England has zero attacking flair. Until Widdop and Brough come in that is. Hopeless one out rugby.

    A lot of people harp on about intensity and keeping up with the pace of the Aussies and the Kiwis. A good team or sportman in any sport will force the opponent to play at their pace, whether that means slowing things down, as you see from Italian football teams.

    “Australia has a strict policy of selecting platers only playing in Australia, no other sport does this”

    Have to correct this, Union does it or at least at lot of union nations do it. A few have only stopped it lately because of the number of players heading to France.

  3. PNG says:

    Hey Druzik

    Another good article I too thought the Exiles game was a close contest and as far as a game goes was entertaining . Just to let you Know there where other nations represented the organisers must of changed there tune about it being just Australia & New Zealand Each players jersey had there nations flag that they where representing on the front on the night . Willie Manu had the Tongan flag George Carmont, Tony Puletua ,and Francis Meli all had the Samoan Flag but I did see Pat Richards had the Australian flag ?? apparently in the team programs it had which nation each Exile was from aswell. The Islander boys where listed corectly but Pat Richards was also listed as Representing Australia which I don’t think he ever did did he? .It’s a shame that organisers only chose to advertise it as Australian & New Zealand Exiles I also thought there was room for some of the French and PNG players to at least be nominated for the team .

    • druzik says:

      I didn’t notice that, but if that was the case then that is wonderful, too bad no one yold the bloody commentators as they all kept harping on about Australia and New Zealand. As you say Pat Richards is an Irish Rep and not an Aussie. As far as I know the PNG and French were never considered for the team.

      The Original concept was “Aussies” and “Kiwis” and I think with the backlash they just put those other national heritages in there to try and appease the masses. As I say it was an ill thought out concept, a very spur of the moment thing I felt.

    • Cheyne Maher says:

      thats good to hear that Tonga and Samoa both got recognition. If they run with the same concept again, which i think they probably will, hopefully the best of the French, Welsh, Irish etc will be available for selection. Is this team selected by fans the same as NRL all stars? If so one would think the PNG players would be popular and get a look in if eligible.

  4. Cheyne Maher says:

    A very interesting concept and some good points Dan. Personally i still haven’t made my mind up if it is good or bad. I totally agree that players from “all other nations” should be available for such a concept. This would provide incentive for the likes of Brough, as you point out, if he were eligible to play for the exiles he would get the chance to play in a high intencity game and still play for Scotland.

    The money thing is an interesting one. An article in the Sun Herald on the weekend explained Uate’s decision to change his allegiance and showed his application to change letter. As you said mate, the $6000 per origin etc is not huge biccies considering the amount they earn per NRL game.

    However as the Uate article explained, the devil is more in that most NRL clubs include incentives in their player contracts that state an automatic pay rise is triggered if they play state of origin or for Australia. I have no idea by how much, but lets say if Uate signed a three year deal 18 months ago at a bargain price as he was just a kid, he is rewarded financially for his rapid rise in stature, which is reflected by Origin selectors picking him. He might go from $100,000 to $150,000 or $200,000 to $250,000. Perhaps its not that much of an increase, perhaps its more. Im only speculating but this extra money to a player like Uate who still supports many of his family in Fiji would be hard to turn back.

    So whats the answer?

    No doubt we need a meaningful structure of fixtures and tournaments, especially during the end of season window for internationals. As for the mid season window?????

    Would a “Pacific Cup” or an Oceanic Cup be the answer, where Uate plays for Fiji while SOO etc is on, or would the mooted Combined Pacific Islands v NZ origin concept provide more incentive for him to committ to Fiji for the end of season games, as he gets to play in a “higher” intencity fixture (s), which is also more likely to trigger a pay rise from his employer (the Knights).

    I am torn. The former probably captures the imagination of fans more, the latter provides for a higher intencity game as a combined team would be full of very, very established NRL footballers.

    One last thought i think personally it is ok for the NRL or RFL etc to only pick players from their own competition to play in mid season rep games, but all should be eligible for the end of season trans global games.

    Mid season games tend to be against local rivals, so logistically makes sense to use locally based players and it provides incentive to stay in the NRL or RFL etc. A NZ style origin system may have kept SBW in the NRL – the fact he was unable to play Origin was supposedly one of his problems at the time. The mid season games also bear no importance on qualifying for four nations/world cups etc

    However i agree that all players should be available for all countries for the end of season, structured tournamnets that allow for promotion and relegation.

    Some really thought provoking stuff Dan, great stuff as always mate.

    PS just starting to type up something re my RL experience in the Cook Islands, cheers!

    • druzik says:

      So as you say Chenye, the devil is on the fine print.

      Why is representing only Origin and Austarlia trigger a pay rise? Why isn’t representing any country in any full international trigger the pay rise… and its because the NRL only cares for the NSW/QLD jerseys. I guarantee that if you went round to every NRL player and administrator and asked them to name 10 countries that play international rugby league every year outside of the oa, NZ, PNG, England and France, 90% of them would give you a blank stare or would say, there are more than those 5 that play Rugby league? … God, the number of players I have bumped into over the years and when explaining what I did they absolute shock in their faces when I rattled off oall the countries that play… Moimoi was the one that stood out the most. I met him in Paris after their test against France and he was speachless, in the end his only reaction was to Andrew Chalmers, “Hey boss can we tour Jamaica next year?”

      As the answer, I do have it, I have posted up here many times in terms of the structure and schedule of the game… maybe I need to do it again just to remind everyone.

      But the simple solution is this, you have a regional competition like the Pacific Cup, but you HAVE to have Australia and New Zealand play in it and field full squads. At the same time, no one has a free ride into the world cup, this means that every game basically becomes a World Cup qualifier even for Australia, so a player like Uate has to make the choice, Fiji or Australia. Since these are world cup qualifiers there is absolutely no way he can change from one nation to the other. He makes his bed and he has to sleep in it. So what would he rather, play for Australia where he only plays two other nations in 4 years, or for Fiji where he will get to play upto 10, including Australi, New Zealand and England…. before even the WC has kicked off.

      It is my opinion that many of the players would choose country over state of origin in this case and so you would start to get a better distribution of talent through all the nations rather than concentration in only 3 nations, this means that NZ and Oz probably would not be so dominant, England actually would have a fairer chance at competing and winning.

      You know thinking about it now, people talk about having a PI team… well we already have that, It called the Kangaroos and Kiwis… no wonder England keeps losing.

      As for Internationals, no, if there is an international everyone should be eligible and considered to play. No ifs no buts.

      So here is the other pickle origin as itself in and I think why they don’t allow people from other nations to play. If you took away the Australia rule then SoO basically only becomes an All-Star exhibition match… what we have at the start of the year.

      But anyway everything I say here are my opinions and are meant to get people thinking, sometimes I am willing to play the devils advocate to get a good debate going about the sport.

      • Cheyne Maher says:

        Yeah it is interesting when i see some NRL players and even local players at my club who really have no idea about the other nations. No doubt a regular schedule is a way of improving the general RL publics awareness of these nations competing.

        I agree with what you’re saying too about how the automatic qualification of some (in 2013 almost all) countries has made a mockery of the new rule re: players playing for a nation in a qualifier cant change.

        It would be nice if RL was strong enough to put in place a pick and stick policy, but i think we wont be able to do this until the game is really strong enough and regular tournaments are in place. Its a bit chicken and the egg……

        As it stands (without regular meaningful competition for all nations), i doubt Uate would have ever nominated Fiji if we had a pick once and stick with it forever rule.

        If they could fix this rule i would personally like to see about 8 nations get automatic qualification (getting WAY off track now, but thought i would put my thoughts up while they were in my head).

        Aus, NZ, England, Wales, France and PNG (all as foundation nations), plus two wild cards – the host nation and the defending world cup holder (or if the defending world cup holder is one of the seven already qualified, pick the next best performed from the cup, so in this case it would be Fiji as 2008 wc semifinalists).

        Here me out on the reasons for allowing the six foundation nations automatic qualification into the tier one tournaments, especially the WC.

        ONE: HISTORICAL. These six nations all played a massive role in the first 100 years of RL. They are the only nations to have competed in any of the first ten world cups, which ironiocally were all held in the first 100 years of the sport. The 11th was in the 101st year of the sport so i think that is significant. Also all six own a piece of history. NZ and Wales played the first international in the All golds tour of 1907, England obviously started RL, France i believe were the instigators of the WC itself, Australia were the first southern hem. nation to have a competition and PNG were the first nation to be able to call it their national sport.


        All six have the neccessary RL infrastructure and geographic positioning to become genuine WC contenders year in, year out. To have three in each hemisphere would be great for RL.

        FINANCIAL REASONS: These six have enough support in their homelands to make this viable in the short term, which is important. If any one of these teams missed out on a major tournament it would significantly decrease tv ratings etc. I think Wales not being in the 08 wc probably huirt interest in the northern hem. significantly. I know soccer deal with this too and sufferred badly financially for England missing euro 08, but i am not sure we can cope with such a hit. Imagine if NZ had a bad year like they did in 2007 – they could conceivably miss out on qualification for a bigger tournament and without the Kiwis brand we would suffer.

        I know the second and third reasons are more looking short term and hopefully longterm if more countries are competitive and the financial support is there, they dont really apply. But i think it is crucial to make sure whatever short term strucuture is in place it is viable and competitive, whilst still providing incentives. The first reason though is the one i feel justifies these teams receiving automatic selection in wc’s etc for the long term – as recognition of the part they played in RL’s first 100 years (even though it could be said some of these countries are also responsible for the growth of the game being limited during this time).

        Wow, so far off topic, but its just my ideas that pop into my head.

      • druzik says:

        Some good and Interesting points in there, much to think about.

        I will only make one comments – you talk about RL being strong enough, thing is I think we are strong enough – its just that we have to finally have belief in ourselves and what we can do, until we DO THAT the farce that exists now will continue. That is the single most important thing that needs to happen in Rugby League.

  5. tax_dodger says:

    I don’t think Brough should play for England. I don’t think he’s good enough for the top level of International sport. He hardly set the world alight playing for Scotland, so I can’t see how he’ll trouble the Aussies and Kiwis. Considering we’re supposed to be preparing for the World Cup, I’d rather we set Jonny Lomax as our scrum half and get him prepared for 2013 by giving him experience against the best. I can’t see Brough being first choice in 2013. I think it’s a waste of a spot and he should go back to Scotland.
    I also feel this match has shown McNamara to be the clueless buffoon he is. We had no flair whatsoever and I doubt we’ll trouble the Aussies and Kiwis with him in charge.
    We also need to change the guard in the pack. We have two 34 year old props playing, are they really gonna be around for the World Cup? Peacock is too slow for International rugby and Morley is living off his past. Now would have been the perfect chance to blood some of the younger players, such as T Burgess, LMS, Larne Patrick, Watts etc. because once Morley and Peacock have retired, we won’t know if we have anyone capable of taking over and if they can handle playing on the biggest occasion. I think we also need to pick players based on form, rather than who they play for. Huddersfield’s pack should have played, along with McGilvary, Welham and Broughton.

    Sorry for the rant Dru!

  6. RedVee says:

    G’day Druzik,
    Dont agree with all your points, Uate corrupted into playing for NSW? matter of opinion – perhaps he was corrupted into playing for Fiji? He never played a game of rugby League before emigrating to Australia, so is he a product of the NSWRL development path? or Fijis?

    1. Exiles should have been available to ALL ONs that play in the ESL. Brough as a Scot, Richards as an Irish player, a Welsh and French or two sprinkled amongst that team would make it more compelling. It should be our equivilent to Barbarians, and an Exiles of the type I describe should/could be played against NZ on an Origen weekend.
    2. We must provide more & higher level games for Intl RL teams other that E/A/NZ.

    • druzik says:

      OK Fair enough point RevVee… but again, Uate was reping Fiji already for 4 years when he decided to switch … Its a blow to Fiji.

      He can’t play for Fiji in the WC even if he doesnt make the kangaroos… thats the issue, basically the Aussies have him locked in now.

  7. RedVee says:

    But if we had concrete rules he could have been made aware of the consequences in the first place.
    My guess is his manager pointed him towards Fiji to raise his profile at a time were he was no change to rep Aust or NSW, knowing (or guessing) full well that they’d only have to plead ignorance to have him made available for NSW and Aust.
    Why else would his Newcastle contract be negotiated with NSW and Aust reps as payrise triggers?

    Set the rules, publicise them & provide games for the other nations.

  8. deluded pom? says:

    If we are to include French and Welsh players in the Exiles game then they have to be playing for an English club otherwise they wouldn’t be in exile would they? Automatics for the WC should be the four semi finalists from the previous tournament. Everyone else should have to qualify. Has anyone ever asked the players who actually switch nations what would make them stick with their original choices? If it’s purely money then what’s the point of an international game if any player who feels aggreived because he was born in the wrong part of the world can plead poverty to the RLIF and opt for a country he feels can better feather his nest? Uate’s reason for choosing Australia are lame. It’s no one’s problem but his that he supports such a large extended family. There are many thousands of people back in Fiji who have to do the same on a tiny percentage of the money Uate earns. What happens to his extended family when he retires and his income drastically reduces?

    • druzik says:

      Up, that is a good point DP … hence why I think calling the team “Exiles” is not the way to go but it should have been the Other Nations like in days gone by. This at least would allow the french and others to play for them.

      But ultimately, you need internationals, these matches are not proper internationals. Proper internationals are the only way you will grow the game.

  9. RedVee says:

    they need to be playing in the ESL for mine, nobody is really in exile are they? Thats why the ON name is better, but having used Exiles they may as well keep it and try to build on it.
    I’ve said elsewhere that it could be a good thing in the Southern Hemisphere as well, maybe NZ could play them on an Origen weekend (if that ever happens). My version would be anyone in the NRL that isn’t committed to Aust or NZ qualifies, play it in NZ and televise it all over.
    Start with the 3 English forwards, add guys like Costigan if he wants to be PNG (again), the PNG hooker from Cronulla or maybe DeGois, Ashton Sims and the other Fijian declarations, plus various Tongans, Samoans, Cook Islanders. If we want people to declare for the minnows we must allow them to play some footy.

  10. Cheyne Maher says:

    Very good point Dan re: RL having belief in our global strengths.if we have this we will be more confident investing $ in regular competitions etc. So how do we gain that confidence?

    • druzik says:

      It starts with the realisation that you dont need to have just 3 strong nations in the sport. You look at the majority of fans they talk about how it has to be England, Australi and NZ… why does it have to be just them? Granted they have the strongest domestic comps but does not mean from this other countries can become strong. Just look at siccer. The EPL is considered the best comeptition in the world yet England does not do well even with it being where the the sport was created. In fact the fact that there around 10 teams that can win the WC shows that strength.

      Thats what we need, we need to effectively encourage fans, players and the media ro support the other nations. Call for players to stop jumping ship, start paying them for representing their nations. Players who rep a nation should get a payment just like the aussies do. This needs to come form the RLIF initially. The media needs to get on board and treat internationals with the respect they deserve as well, not take on the defeatist mentality.

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