Sydney Roosters coach John Strange has called for a change to the women’s representative eligibility rules so the likes of Tiana Rafstrand-Smith, Destiny Brill and Chante Temara can play for New Zealand without foregoing Origin.
The Kiwi Ferns were beaten 54-4 by the Jillaroos in the World Cup final at Old Trafford but Strange believes it would have been a much closer contest if New Zealand had players like Botille Vette-Welsh, Corban Baxter and Zahara Temara.
The trio played for the Māori team in February’s All Stars match, along with Jillaroos forwards Kennedy Cherrington, Shannon Mato and Olivia Kernick, but they would be unable to play Origin had they chosen to represent New Zealand at Test level.
Vette-Welsh, Baxter and Temara are no longer eligible for the Kiwi Ferns as they have previously represented the Jillaroos and players cannot switch allegiances between tier one nations - Australia, England and New Zealand.
It is a dilemma New Zealand-born Brill, Rafstrand-Smith - the niece of Black Ferns great Portia Woodman - and Chante Temara are likely to face in coming seasons unless the Origin rules change, as they also qualify to play for Queensland.
Strange, who steered the Roosters to the 2021 NRLW premiership and was the 2022 Dally M coach of the year, travelled to England to watch the World Cup and took particular interest in the Kiwi Ferns as he also has New Zealand heritage.
“The Kiwi Ferns are the second-best side in the world but it’s going to be hard for them to challenge the Jillaroos because they are never going to be able to field their strongest team under the current State of Origin rules,” Strange told NRL.com.
“There are five or six girls, who if they change the rule, could represent New Zealand but they aren’t eligible because they play State of Origin.
“I’m not saying that they have only chosen the Jillaroos because of State of Origin, but I’m sure it would have an influence.
“Liv Kernick had the option to play for New Zealand or the Jillaroos, but she is a NSW Origin player.
“I spoke to her about it and if she plays for New Zealand she has to give up playing Origin, so when it came to it came to the World Cup final, Liv was sitting in the stands because she didn’t make the 17 for the Jillaroos.”
ARLC commissioner Wayne Pearce told NRL.com that a review of Origin eligibility rules in the new year would consider the impact of allowing men’s and women’s players who qualify for their state and another tier one nation to represent both.
“At the end of the day my view is that Origin has really shifted from being a gateway to playing for Australia to being a gateway to playing international football, providing you fulfil the eligibility criteria,” Pearce said.
“We won’t be touching the eligibility criteria in terms of where you played your junior footy, the only question mark is around whether players who are eligible can represent another tier one nation and play State of Origin.”
Under the current rules, Samoa’s Jarome Luai, Tonga’s Daniel Tupou and Fiji’s Api Koroisau can play Origin as players from tier two nations are still eligible for Kangaroos selection.
However, Kiwi Ferns halfback Raecene McGregor - the 2022 Dally M Medallist and IRL Golden Boot winner - and England lock Victor Radley are banned from Origin, despite both being born in Australia.
“In my opinion Raecene would have been the NSW halfback this year if she hadn’t chosen to play for New Zealand,” Strange said.
“As it turned out, Rae was the only halfback in the New Zealand squad so if you take her out, they probably finish behind England.
"Zahara Temara, Bo Vette-Welsh and Corban Baxter are eligible for the Māori team, but they can’t play for New Zealand because they play Origin.
“I know they are looking at the rules for the men, but I really think it’s more important for the women if we want to make it more competitive at an international level.
“Unless we allow players to play State of Origin and for a tier one nation, like New Zealand or England, if they are eligible, I think it is going to be really hard for anyone to get near the Jillaroos.”