The Queensland State of Origin selection nightmare has brought the game to its knees hours before kick-off – and the real transgressors have now been exposed.
Turmoil for QLD as Mulitalo eligibility questioned
Ronaldo Mulitalo. Photo: AAP.
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The build-up to the game has been overshadowed by the selection scandal surrounding Queensland debutant Ronaldo Mulitalo.
The real culprit in the Queensland farce has been revealed to be the QRL and the blunders that allowed the representative bungle to get all the way to the day of the game at Suncorp Stadium.
The Sharks winger was brought into the Maroons starting side on Saturday as a replacement for injured fullback Reece Walsh but the Blues questioned his eligibility at the eleventh hour.
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Mulitalo was born in New Zealand and reportedly lived there until he was nearly 14. Revised Origin eligibility rules approved in 2012 mean players needed to have resided in either NSW or Queensland before their 13th birthday to be able to compete in the interstate contest.
The NRL released a statement on Sunday morning saying Queensland had withdrawn Mulitalo “after being uncertain of his eligibility” to play.
Mulitalo has represented Queensland at Under-18 and Under-20 level, but his forced withdrawal has forced Queensland to turn back to Xavier Coates, who was dropped after the series opener.
While commentators across the game couldn’t believe their eyes at the last-minute drama, pointing fingers in all directions, Fox League NRL 360 host Paul Kent on Sunday pointed out the real people behind the farce.
“It’s not an oversight. It’s incompetence,” Kent told Triple M.
“To go and pick ineligible players and hope you sneak one through is embarrassing to the whole Origin concept.
“If they knew about it and they picked him regardless because thought they could get it through because it’s a time of desperation.”
Thurston’s revelation sparks conspiracy
Maroons legend and assistant coach Johnathan Thurston hit out at NSW’s role in questioning Mulitalo’s eligibility as the furore ramped up on Sunday morning.
“He’s been in our under-18s Maroons, he’s played for the under-20s Maroons, he’s been a part of our emerging Origin team for a number of years,” Thurston said before the announcement was made.
“It’s very unfortunate at this stage — but that’s just standard NSW, isn’t it?”
After the bombshell development was confirmed, Thurston said Queensland still believes Mulitalo is eligible, revealing the 21-year-old is “a broken man”.
“We still haven’t given up hope of him playing in the series given the fact that we couldn’t get the right documentation to prove that he was here before he was 13,” Thurston said.
“The NRL made the call that if he does play the game will be null and void so hopefully we can get that documentation over the next week or so and he can be back in camp.
“I know the QRL are doing everything in their power to hopefully get the right documentation so he can finish out the series.”
Asked to confirm whether Thurston was implying documents existed that prove Mulitalo was eligible to play for Queensland, Thurston replied: “That’s exactly what I’m saying.”
NSW coach Brad Fittler denied the Blues had done anything untoward to contribute to the situation. He said a story that emerged on Saturday detailing Mulitalo’s football journey alerted journalists he may not be eligible, and everything snowballed from there.
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