‘Don’t pick and choose’: To’o’s Samoa decision sparks heated debate over eligibility

Blues star Brian To’o’s decision to represent Samoa over Australia at the Rugby League World Cup has sparked a heated debate over international suitability.

The 23-year-old, who will play his sixth game for NSW in the series decider, explained that he will “play for my family” during the tournament in October.

As it stands, players such as To’o will be able to represent NSW and Queensland in Origin before choosing to play for second-tier countries.

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But, on talking Triple Mrugby league pundits explained that they believed the system is flawed and players should choose where their future lies early in their careers.

“I’m going to call ‘BS’ on this, now Brian To’o is a phenomenal player, he’s incredible, but if you play Origin and you choose to play for NSW or Queensland this is a selection trial, deadset, for Australia said Ben Dobbin on Triple M.

“You don’t choose to play for another country and exclude yourself from Australia. I’m sorry, but otherwise let’s play James Graham State of Origin, but no, I’m going to play for England.

“You play Origin, you play for Australia and if you don’t get selected, you decide whether you go back to your national team.”

“You don’t pick right at the beginning and I know this because some kids have moved here, someone like Petero (Civoniceva) who came here as a kid, and they want to play for Queensland, but they don’t want to choose,” Gorden Tallis said.

“So the point is, we need to eradicate this now, if you’re 15 or 16 you can tick a box or if you’re 18, once you get into the NRL you tick a box and that’s the box.

“If you don’t play Origin, you can’t play for it, you can’t have your cake and you can’t eat it.”

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England international James Graham had other ideas, explaining that players like Brian To’o playing for countries other than Australia is only positive for the game.

With Origin talent spread across the rugby league playing countries, the international competition can only get stronger.

In the past, State of Origin was the pinnacle of the Kangaroos selection shows, but now Graham believes the series is more than just a trial.

“I think with our international game we need people like Brian To’o who play for Samoa, I think it’s important and why put young adults in an unnecessary position and choose now,” said Graham.

“You don’t know who you’re going to be when you grow up, you don’t know what opportunities you’re going to get, I think it’s great and I think Origin has gone beyond being a trial for the Australian team.

“It’s bigger than that, it’s its own entity.”

“But it’s still called State of Origin,” said Fox League’s James Hooper.

“It’s an Australian concept, it’s where you come from whether you’re from NSW or Queensland.”

“Nothing takes that away, I think you can still play for NSW or Queensland and still not play for Australia and choose to play for Samoa or Tonga,” said Graham.

“I think if you raise your hand and play for NSW or Queensland you should be prepared to be picked for Australia because state of origin has always been considered a kangaroos selection process,” Hooper said.


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“You have to choose to play for Australia first, then if you miss the Kangaroos squad, let’s say Brian To’o, he’s one of the wingers in the league, he would probably be in the squad, but if he then I miss I have no problem with it.”

Rugby league legend Gorden Tallis agreed that if more Origin players chose to play for countries other than Australia, the Rugby League World Cup would grow stronger, but he compared the decision to his own and chose to Australia instead of Scotland.

“There are 13 guys – To’o, Crichton, Tupou, Luai, Haas, Koroisau, Paulo, Talakai, Holmes, Taulagi, Papalii, Kaufusi, Nanai and Fa’asuamaleaui, so there are 13 guys playing State of Origin, it would be better if they played for those sides,” said Tallis.

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“How good would the international game be if Australia goes out and we don’t know if they’re going to beat Tonga, Samoa, Cook Islands, PNG or Fiji.

“Queenslanders generally go to play for Australia, if I’m not a Queenslander, and I chose to play for where my grandfather is from, Scotland.

“If I had wanted to play for Scotland I would have chosen Scotland but I gave up the right to play for Queensland but I didn’t choose Queensland because it meant more to me so you have to choose what means more to you and my family, I wanted to play for Queensland and Australia.”

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