20 Jun 2018

Samoa players cop criticism over move to Kiwis

10:43 am on 20 June 2018

Outrage greeted the naming of the New Zealand Kiwis rugby league team after it was revealed three members of Samoa's 2017 World Cup team were included in the squad to meet England in Denver this weekend.

Toa Samoa players hit out at their former teammates, criticising their decision and questioning their manhood.

The public outcry was no less severe with media personalities and talkback-callers alike adamant that the players never be given the opportunity to represent Samoa again.

Leeson Ah Mau played for Samoa at the World Cup but is expected to switch allegiance to New Zealand.

Leeson Ah Mau, (with the ball), is expected to make his debut for NZ against England Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Okay, disclosure time - none of this actually happened when Samoan world cup players Ken Maumalo, Leeson Ah Mau and Herman Ese'ese were named in the latest Kiwi team.

Strange really, when you consider this exact reaction was expressed passionately by many members of New Zealand's league fraternity when star forward Jason Taumalolo led a group of seven players away from the Kiwis to represent Tonga at the 2017 World Cup.

Former Kiwi pivot Benji Marshall labelled Taumalolo's decision disrespectful despite the fact the Auckland-born Tongan had initially represented Tonga at the 2013 World Cup before collecting 10 caps for New Zealand.

Kiwis captain Adam Blair said Taumalolo had betrayed the New Zealand jersey in a move that was "shattering" because of Blair's pride in the black and white.

Blair also referred to Taumalolo as not being "man enough" to tell the Kiwis of his World Cup plans earlier and was uncertain whether the New Zealanders should ever welcome him back in the future.

Tonga's Jason Taumalolo and Konrad Hurrell celebrate their win over the Kiwis.

Taumalolo helped Tonga upset the Kiwis 28-22 at the 2017 World Cup. Photo: PhotoSport

The 25-year-old Taumalolo conceded he could have handled his decision better but it didn't stop Kiwi fans filling the airwaves and newspaper pages with bitter vitriol.

Lost in all of this was that for years New Zealand had benefited from players swapping allegiances in its favour. Taumalolo himself is a case in point; current Kiwi powerhouse Marty Taupau played a test for Toa Samoa before notching up nearly five years of service for New Zealand; Manu Ma'u and Solomone Kata wore the red of Tonga before donning a Kiwis jersey; and as far back as the 1980s, former New Zealand captain Duanne Mann won his first cap for the Kingdom.

In perhaps an effort to make international rugby league teams more competitive, eligibility rules were recently relaxed to allow players who qualify for more than one country to represent a tier two nation if they are not playing for a tier one team (Australia, England or New Zealand).

This has allowed players to change teams when they feel so inclined, and in this global village of migration and multi-culturalism there are an increasing amount of players who can do just that and should be able to without reprimand.

Samoan league fans seem to understand this, hopefully kiwi league fans do now as well.

Tongan and Samoan players embrace in prayer

Tonga play Samoa, in a replay of their World Cup group match, on Saturday night Photo: NRL / Shane Wenzlick

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