19 Sep 2016

Sport: Pacific players welcome proposed league rule change

12:46 pm on 19 September 2016

A proposed revamp of rugby league's eligibility rules is being hailed as a game-changer for Pacific nations.

The Rugby League International Federation has approved plans that would allow eligible players to nominate both a tier one and tier two nation to represent, and the ability to switch between the countries multiple times within a World Cup cycle, with no stand-down period.

Polynesian players would also be free to play State of Origin whilst remaining eligible for their native island country.

Samoa too strong for Tonga in the 2016 Pacific Test.

Samoa too strong for Tonga in the 2016 Pacific Test. Photo: Facebook / NRL - National Rugby League

Toa Samoa coach Matt Parish has long called for changes to eligibility rules and said the changes were a massive boost for Pacific teams and the international game.

"Players shouldn't be penalised for having to pick (between tier one and two nations) and that's what has happened in the past. I think the Pacific nations are going to be a real force to be reckoned with in future with such a positive rule change," he said.

Toa Samoa rugby league coach Matt Parish

Toa Samoa rugby league coach Matt Parish Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Mr Parish said Pacific nations couldn't match the financial rewards offered by Australia, New Zealand and England, who would still get their pick of the best talent.

But he said the new rules would immediately open the international door to a handful of top NRL players.

"And while that doesn't sound much, you put two or three really, really good players in any team (and) it can change the whole balance of your whole squad," he said.

"Obviously from a Toa Samoa point of view, if we had Anthony Milford for example playing for us in 2014 (in the Four Nations) I've got no doubt we would have won the first two games - and thus put us in the final - and that's all these teams need is one or two players of that quality to come into your team.

Anthony Milford

Anthony Milford played for Samoa in 2013 but is yet to represent Australia. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

"What I've tried to do is use Samoa as a stepping stone and I've said to your Josh McGuire's, your Tony Milford's, your Suaia Matagi's, play for Samoa and if you're picked in the next level good luck to you.

Jarryd Hayne is embraced by Fiji fans during the 2008 Rugby League World Cup.

Jarryd Hayne would be eligible to represent Fiji and New South Wales under the proposed changes. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

"We're happy for you to go up, get picked in the Origin, get picked for New Zealand, earn some money but then when you're coming back the other way we'd like to see you come back and put something back into Samoa when you're finishing your career," he said

"And I can't speak highly enough of the influence that guys like Frank Pritchard, Sia Soliola and Sam Kasiano and Dave Fa'alogo have had in what we've done in Samoa the last couple of years."

Toa Samoa League Captain David Fa'alogo

Dave Fa'alogo has played for both New Zealand and Samoa. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

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