11 May 2016

Sport: Rugby league's governing body admit eligibility rules need reviewing

12:04 pm on 11 May 2016

Rugby league's world governing body admits the sport's controversial eligibility rules need reviewing.

Toa Samoa were denied access to Brisbane Broncos star Anthony Milford for Saturday's Pacific Test win over Tonga, while the Mate Ma'a coach Kristian Woolf said he too was unable to select a host of front-line players, including Warriors utlility Tuimoala Lolohea.

Australia's Semi Radradra takes on New Zealand's Jesse Bromwich.

Fiji-born Semi Radradra playing for Australia against New Zealand Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Fiji were also unhappy that Australia selected former Bati winger Semi Radradra while the Parramatta Eels refused to release second-rower Kenny Edwards for the Cook Islands test against Lebanon.

The Rugby League International Federation's International Development Manager, Tas Baitieri, said the issue of player availability has came to head this year with a high number of representative teams trying to pick from the same player pool.

"When you look at (New South Wales) City/Country as well as the New South Wales and Queensland Residents sides so we've got up to 12 teams being selected across the board and it spreads the talented player pool thinly across those teams. As you can appreciate, all the coaches want to win their matches, therefore they're trying to target the best players but that in essence will disadvantage some of the Pacific Island teams, where players I think prefer to play as opposed to some of the rewards they might getting if they were to play for City/Country and even New South Wales and Queensland reps."

The captains of PNG, Samoa, Tonga and Fiji pose before the Pacific Test.

The captains of PNG, Samoa, Tonga and Fiji pose before the Pacific Test. Photo: Facebook / NRL - National Rugby League

Toa Samoa coach Matt Parish has lashed out at the NRL and clubs for their treatment of Pacific Island teams and told media he remained convinced the 21 year old wanted to play at the weekend.

Milford's two-year commitment to Australia and Queensland expired last week, which meant he would have been free to play against Tonga and still make a formal eligibility change back to the Maroons and Kangaroos in time for State of Origin or international match.

Tas Baitieri said the Milford case has set something of a precedent.

"Anthony did have the opportunity to do both. I know there's a lot of pressure on the kid - everybody's calling him, whether it be the media or his coaches, from both sides. There is probably a lot of uncalled pressure on the kid and I think, just to protect him from all of that pressure...and it's always difficult to say no, I think the coach made the call just to (relieve) him of the pressure."

Anthony Milford

Broncos star Anthony Milford didn't play for Samoa or Australia at the weekend. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

He said the current rules have been in place for decades but accepts they need a fresh look.

"We've got to a point where everybody is banging heads to try and see if they can get the players they want. The rules need a serious review so that everybody gets to play with their selection preference and not be jeopardised in the future if he was to become eligible for a higher or tier one country, which I think everybody agrees to because the rewards are playing with those top nations because there are very few rewards playing for tier two countries."

Tas Baitieri said it's too late for any changes to be made before next year's World Cup, as it would disadvantage teams that have worked under the current rules.

Samoa too strong for Tonga in the 2016 Pacific Test.

Toa Samoa were too strong for Tonga in the Pacific Test. Photo: Facebook / NRL - National Rugby League