Equal Opportunity for Pacific Rugby League Players

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Petition to the RLIF (Rugby League International Federation) to create annual tournaments with acceptable pay for Pacific Rugby League players. We are calling on the RLIF to make an investment into a Pacific Cup, kick-starting these nations to create a vehicle to create revenue for themselves. 

Australian Rugby League players last Rugby League World Cup were paid $60,000 when they won the RLWC and over $90,000 should they play in the three state of origin games that year. On top of that the Australian Rugby League Commission is kicking in $30,000 each to Kangaroos and New Zealand players for competing in the tournament, as part of the pay deal negotiated earlier this year. The lower-tier nations were not included in that agreement. 

Players representing the Pacific Nations were paid $30 a day and $300 a game depending on what nation they played for.   

We have just had an amazing RLWC with each Pacific nation competing reaching the quarterfinals. Two of those sides – Fiji and Tonga – went onto the semi-finals. Both beat New Zealand to do so and Tonga – depending on your point of view – could have easily been playing in the final against Australia instead of England had a certain “no try” ruling gone to the video referee.

We have had kings show up to the games and American rock stars fly back on their own money to sing the anthem. We have had crowds in their thousands show up to airports to greet the players or line the streets in protest and support for their national team. Attendance records have been broken at sporting stadiums, crowd support for international teams has never been more passionate and media hype has never been more positive. Our game was rewarded with some of the greatest sporting drama anyone can remember and games of the highest possible standard.

And yet here we are in the middle of May of 2018 and only the one game for the Pacific nations has been set, a mid-season Test. What more do these Nations need to do in order to get a chance to play more games and be paid a fair wage?

How is this a reward for those Pacific Nations that brought so much to our World Cup? How is this an incentive to the players who knocked back huge match payments from Australia and New Zealand to honour their heritage and play so passionately for the Pacific Nations underdogs? How is this good for our international game?

The answer as to how to ride the RLWC momentum is quite obvious. These nations need a regular competition. A trophy they can hold up if victorious, a set of games that can reward the players each year as a decent respectable representative career and a tournament that can bring back the fans and give them something to look forward to. Reward them for their passionate support. They need an annual Pacific Cup to ride the World Cup momentum and decent payment.

Super Star Players like Jason Taumalolo, Andrew Fifita, Michael Jennings, Jarryd Hayne, Suliasi Vunivalu, Anthony Milford Josh Papalii made themselves available for the Pacific Nations in 2017. Young gun players just starting their careers like Tavita Pangai Jnr and Viliame Kikau might one day be lost to those nations to powerhouse countries with huge amounts of depth via State of Origin/Australia, New Zealand or even Rugby Union if we don't start paying these players a decent wage and giving them more games.

French Rugby Union clubs were already interested in Kikau before he signed with Penrith. Instead of saying "what a shame" should he eventually succumb to Rugby Union dollars like we did with Semi Radradra, Marika Koroibete, Israel Folau, Lote Tuqiri and other pacific super stars before him, players of such calibre incentive to stick to our game for their entire careers.   

The potential star power in these teams, the passion in which they play the game, the passion of the crowds that support them, and the interest they create in our game in New Zealand and the Pacific is at state of origin level and yet their payments are no where near state of origin level. Maybe now is the time for that to change.   

It seems everybody who follows Rugby League wants more games for these guys except the people who organise such games. Tongan coach Kristian Woolf said Tongan kids in New Zealand don't want to play for the All Blacks anymore, they want to play for Tonga. Damon Salesa, associate professor of Pacific Studies at Auckland University, claimed rugby union could "easily lose Pacific rugby" to Rugby League if we continue to push development of Rugby League in the pacific.

A Pacific Cup would be a great carrot to dangle in front of Rugby League and Union kids in Australia and New Zealand. NRL clubs could benefit with a new player pool of kids wishing to switch over so they have a chance to proudly represent the nation of their heritage. Considering the amount of money Pacific players knocked back to play for these nations, its not unbelievable kids and adult players might switch codes to represent. That is how passionate they are about their heritage. 

Why is it, to attain their valid worth a Pacific Rugby League player needs to wear the Maroon of Queensland, the Blue of NSW or Kiwi Black instead of the Red of Tonga or the White of Fiji? Its time the contribution of these players to our game was recognised and their skills and passion was rewarded financially and with a respectable representative career. 

The responsibility falls on the shoulders of the leaders of our game, the RLIF and the NRL to take the opportunities to spread our game when they arise. There are many teams in Rugby League but we are all members of one team, that team is Rugby League the sport in whole. We need to always do what is best for that team more then any other. A Pacific Cup is best for Rugby League as a whole.