Queensland player ruled ineligible in ugly State of Origin scandal

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·Sports Editor
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Ronaldo Mulitalo, pictured here in action at Queensland's captain's run at Suncorp Stadium.
Ronaldo Mulitalo in action at Queensland's captain's run at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

Ronaldo Mulitalo is set to be denied a chance to make his State of Origin debut for Queensland after NRL officials ruled him ineligible to represent the Maroons.

The Cronulla Sharks winger was in camp all week as 19th man before receiving a late call-up to the starting side on Saturday when fullback Reece Walsh was ruled out with injury.

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NSWRL officials then brought Mulitalo's eligibility into question after an article surfaced from 2019 claiming the New Zealand-born winger moved to Queensland just shy of his 14th birthday.

Under current State of Origin eligibility requirements, players must have lived in either NSW or Queensland prior to their 13th birthday.

In 2019 - the year of his NRL debut - Mulitalo also represented Samoa in one Test and the United States at the Rugby League World Cup Nines.

The NRL executive met on Saturday night and are reportedly set to deny the 21-year-old his debut, just hours before kick-off in Game II at Suncorp Stadium.

The Maroons were of the belief that Mulitalo was eligible because he had already represented Queensland at under-18 and under-20s level.

But it is now thought that those selections came about because of administrative oversight.

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Queensland rocked by more late drama

Paul Green is now scrambling for a game-day replacement, with Brisbane winger Xavier Coates in line for an extraordinary recall after he was dropped in the aftermath to the Game I loss.

Another option could be to shift bench utility Ben Hunt to five-eighth and regular No.6 Cameron Munster to fullback, however the promotion of 18th man Coen Hess to the bench would still leave Queensland needing one additional player.

The Maroons are already without injured hooker Harry Grant and fullbacks Kalyn Ponga, AJ Brimson and Walsh - who was poised to debut after just seven NRL games.

Ronaldo Mulitalo, pictured here with teammates at Queensland's captain's run.
Ronaldo Mulitalo (centre) with teammates at Queensland's captain's run. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

Queensland are desperate to keep the series alive on Sunday night after NSW were comprehensive 50-6 winners in Game I in Townsville.

NSW coach Brad Fitter said it wouldn't matter who lined up for the Maroons, given how they always seem to thrive as underdogs.

"I'm sure they'll be right," he said.

"I'm surprised we haven't heard anything earlier; we love the drama around Origin, that's what makes it so great.

"It won't change our game plan or game ... it won't be (a distraction) for us.

with AAP

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