Qld coaches slam Origin eligibility change

·2-min read

Former Queensland coaches Wayne Bennett and Kevin Walters have smacked down the NRL's plans to revise State of Origin eligibility rules, warning it would dilute the magic of the product.

Earlier this week Pacific Islander stars Jason Taumalolo and Viliame Kikau put their hand up to be selected for the Maroons this season despite being ineligible under current laws.

ARL commissioner Wayne Pearce is heading up a review into eligibility laws which prevent players who have pledged allegiance to New Zealand or England from playing for either state regardless of where they played junior football.

North Queensland lock Taumalolo has already played for the Kiwis despite living in the state since he was 13, while Kikau has played 11 Tests for Fiji but didn't play rugby league in Queensland until he was scouted by the Cowboys to play under-20s.

There's an argument that Origin should include the best players in the NRL, but Bennett said revising the rules is a waste of time and will diminish the emotion of the game.

"I don't know why we beat ourselves up about that. It's just a waste of time thing," he said on Thursday.

"We've got rules, the NRL created the rules and I was a part of it at the time.

"There's been some adjustments since then so go look at the rules.

"If the rule says (Taumalolo) can play, then he can play. But if they say he can't play, then he's not going to play.

"The rules are the rules.

"State of Origin works because it's genuine. It's not something that we've manufactured and played with and changed.

"It's mate versus mate, state versus state.

"And when we change that we'll have a different dynamic and I don't think it'll be in the best interests of the game to do that."

The South Sydney coach delivered Queensland to a famous series victory last year with a group of inexperienced players and his stance is backed by former Maroons coach Walters.

Although the proud Queenslanders would stand to gain two of the best forwards in the competition in Taumalolo and Kikau if changes are approved, neither want the tradition of the contest to change.

"I feel like the series is in great shape," Walters said.

"We've got great players playing, from both states, that make up a terrific contest.

"I just feel that introducing some outside noise would take some air out of the tyres and what State of Origin is all about and that's passion for your state, for your jersey and for your teammates."