NRL's U-19s Origin marquee falls flat

·2-min read

The NRL's efforts to introduce star power to under-19s State of Origin have fallen embarrassingly flat, with clubs unwilling to make marquee players available.

Under rules announced by the NRL a fortnight ago, each state would be able to pick two under-20s players with first-grade contracts to feature in the match.

At the time, the NRL included the likes of Sam Walker, Joseph Suaalii, Will Penisini, Reece Walsh, Ezra Mam and Tyrell Sloan as examples of players now eligible.

But none of the young stars featured in teams named by both states on Thursday.

Instead one-game Canberra forward Trey Mooney was the sole under-20s aged player named by NSW, with 19-year-old Davvy Moale the only other player with NRL experience.

Queensland meanwhile have no players with any NRL experience, with Melbourne squad member Jack Howarth and Gold Coast counterpart JoJo Fifita the biggest names.

The lack of marquee players would be a significant let down to the Nine Network, who will broadcast the junior Origin match in prime time next Thursday.

Joseph Suaalii will likely be in NSW's camp for Origin II in Perth, while Penisini has been named in Tonga's team to take on New Zealand in Auckland.

However it's believed the likes of Walker, Walsh, Sloan and Xavier Savage and other players eligible by the rule change were not made available.

Clubs have indicated they were unwilling to release week-to-week NRL players to feature in an underage match, particularly with only the one bye in the season's schedule.

States are also understanding of their position, accepting that players unlikely to feature in junior age matches once they become part of the NRL system.

Regardless, the NRL are insistent they spoke to clubs about the eligibility rules before they were announced earlier this month.

However Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson claimed last week he had never been to about the issue, as he bristled at a question of if he would release young guns to feature.

"No one selected has talked to me about it at all. It hasn't been raised by anyone at the NRL," Robinson said last Friday.

"They are NRL players who play week in week out footy, so we expect them to play NRL.

"In the history of the game players haven't played age group footy once they become NRL players. So I don't think that will change."

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