Maroons great Brent Tate has labelled the potential change to eligibility rules for State of Origin as 'horrifying'. The Australian Rugby League Commission is reportedly looking at changing the rules around eligibility of international players for the NRL's showpiece event.
Currently, players who have played for New Zealand or England are not eligible to take part for New South Wales or Queensland in the bitter rivalry. Although, reports suggest these rules are being looked at to bolster the talent pool available for Origin.
The variation to the rule has allowed players eligible to play for tier two nations, such as Tonga and Samoa, opt to play against the Kangaroos and also take part in Origin. The Blues played Panthers duo Stephen Crichton and Brian To'o in 2023, who both play for Samoa. However, allowing heavyweights such as New Zealand and English players to take part would change the dynamics of the series.
The feud is built on the state versus state, mate versus mate, mantra. A variation to the rules would change the outlook of the series, but players would have to still meet the Origin criteria having played junior footy in either state. And former Maroons player Tate has emphatically blasted the idea as a potential disaster.
“I’d be horrified to think they’d do something like that,” Tate told SEN Radio. “It’s the greatest concept, living in Queensland or NSW and having passion for the jersey. If they did that, I wouldn’t watch, it’s not what it’s about, it’s not what the fabric of State of Origin was born about.
“If they did that and opened it up, it completely changes the concept of State of Origin, for me they’re really dicing with danger there. It’s the greatest duel in the crown of rugby league, there’s an old saying, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, leave it alone.”
Reports suggest both Billy Slater and Michael Maguire have been approached about the idea and to give their feedback. But Tate feels the move would ruin the tradition of the rivalry and dilute the passion involved for fans and players.
“Honestly, I’m flabbergasted that they’re even thinking about tinkering with the rules, as I said, I think it’ll have a dire effect on what State of Origin is about, where it’s born and the history of it," he added. “I know you always have to move forward but it’s not as if the product is still not great, it’s still supported, everyone loves it and gets around it.”
State of Origin eligibility rules under review
Last year, Wayne Bennett called for an overhaul of the rules where players can play State of Origin and represent another nation. Bennet used the example of Roosters player Victor Radley who plays for England in international rugby league after opting to make the switch as. junior Kangaroos player.
Radley was called up for the preliminary Blues squad in 2022, but didn't take part in the series. He since has made his debut for England. Radley's decision means he can't play for the Blues in State of Origin.
“What I’m saying is the criteria to play for Queensland and NSW must not change,” Bennett said last year. “But what should change is that players should be available for selection for a whole lot of countries outside Australia.
“Victor Radley should be allowed to play for NSW and also play for England. But he will never play for Australia. He made that choice. But he still ticks all the boxes to play Origin because he grew up playing his football in NSW."
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.