There's no place for Kiwis in State of Origin.
It has always been state against state and mate against mate. That's an almost religious belief. The event has real hatred about it that can only come from players representing where they were born and bred. You've got to live it to really understand the true meaning of what Origin is, so I just don't think Kiwis should be involved in it.
I was 21 when I went to Australia to play and I spent quite a few years there. Not one part of me even registered the thought of ever trying to play Origin. But now we have younger kids going over there, being in the Aussie system and being thrown this carrot. They've been there half their lives and there is some serious money involved. They're under the influence of agents who see a monetary benefit of their clients being involved in Origin and an opportunity to raise their profile and stature in the game, and it's not hard for them to think "yeah, I want to be a part of it".
But if you talk to any Kiwi who has a strong belief in who they are they will straight away tell you where their hearts lie.
I heard Hugh McGahan's son Matt - who is at Melbourne - talk recently and he said straight up he is a Kiwi and that was that.
To me it comes down to who you are as a person and how you were brought up. Any real Kiwi would straight away say "I am a Kiwi - that's where my heart and my soul belongs to". These days that soul is being sold. That's the way I look at it and I just can't fathom how you could do that.
When James Tamou looks at himself in the mirror, deep down, he's got tattoos, he says "bro" - he's a Kiwi. But again it comes down to who you are and how you've been brought up.
NSW and Queensland have coaches who concentrate on only one team for the whole year and they go out and look for players who fit their needs. Over the last six months we've seen how proactive they are in targeting Kiwi players.
NSW needed props so they went out and got Tamou. Jason Taumalolo was highlighted as the best young talent in the game and before you know it you've got Mal Meninga flying up to Townsville to visit his family. It's a different ballgame now.
The NZRL needs to be proactive and maybe it can look at increasing player payments, but our best bet still remains getting kids into our system through the Junior Kiwis and roots camps. Once our young players are in that system most realise the importance of that brotherhood and where they really belong. They realise who they really are.
I've heard some people say we had the chance to pick players like Tamou, Sam Kasiano and Taumalolo and we haven't, so tough luck if they then choose to play Origin.
But there are players who work their butts off over long periods of time to get in the Kiwis team. We can't just select somebody because we think they are an up-and-coming player just to keep the Aussie states at bay.
That's a silly proposition. Players work themselves into contention and when they get selected they should be worthy of it, not be there just because we think we should keep them. That's pathetic. Again, it goes back to values and how we operate. You won't get picked because we think you'll be great in a year or two. But, if you want it, you'll be striving to do your best to get there.
Kasiano and Taumalolo are very, very talented young men and given time they will make it. There is no question about that. There is still one more test to come this year and, who knows, they may even play in that. But if they are picked it will be because they are worthy of selection and they really want to be there.By Richie Barnett