Chris Rattue on sport

The latest sport analysis and comment from Herald columnist Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue: Turncoat Tamou sells his skills to highest bidder

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James Tamou will ditch the Kiwis. Photo / Getty Images
James Tamou will ditch the Kiwis. Photo / Getty Images

Fake Aussie forward James Tamou has marked himself down as a joke and there's nothing anybody can do to save him and the game from the humiliation.

If league coaches, selectors and players want to play fast and loose with the rules and the sport's credibility, then the rest of us are powerless to stop the rort.

Fostering respect rests heavily with the individuals and unfortunately Tamou has covered himself in enough mud to rebuild Carlaw Park. The best that can be said about his nation-hopping disgrace is that it has added an explosive element to Friday night's test at Eden Park.

The New Zealand Rugby League's high performance manager, Tony Kemp, has also done a great job with a warlike response, and Kemp may well have plenty more battles to fight on this front.

The current rules are good enough considering league's limited international standing. They respect the individual's right to decide his allegiance based on heritage and residency and have enabled the small Pacific Island sides to use top players who can later join the big guns when their careers blossom.

Turncoat Tamou was in the Kiwi camp last year, but hopped into a Kangaroo jersey this week after discussions with New South Wales State of Origin coach Ricky Stuart and captain Paul Gallen.

We all know that there are tricky eligibility situations in sport and difficulties in framing rules. And Tamou, who was 13 when his family moved to Australia, did have a choice to make. But he made that choice when accepting a place in the Kiwi train-on squad last year and declaring it would be an honour to wear the black and white.

A 23-year-old with definite Kiwi loyalties and prospects, plus a history in the junior system, has not suddenly decided he is Australian. A player on the verge of Kiwi test selection has allowed someone to persuade him that he is Australian via a State of Origin carrot, or an element of vice-versa.

The Aussies are hypocrites, using the rigidity of their state eligibility rules which involve national loyalty to recruit international players whose hearts, in truth, lie elsewhere. Like vultures, the Aussies are preying on the weakness of New Zealand's domestic game, which can't provide an Origin alternative or pay packet. The cynical heist won't stop with Tamou either, especially as the Kiwis threaten to rule the league roost.

Old sour face Stuart must have a fine line in chat, and the Aussie selectors have played along by picking Tamou and thus securing him forever as a State of Origin blue.

One problem, of course, is that New Zealand is far from lily white. Brian McClennan's Kiwis made the outrageous decision six years ago to fast-track Nathan Fien before the little Aussie was eligible. Along the way, the management and Fien fudged about the exact details of his heritage and now it has come back to bite us in the form of a ready-made Aussie excuse.

Ultimately, these decisions rest with the players and unlike many others I regard Fien as an equal villain in that scandal alongside the administration and team management. Fien had to virtually deny the existence of his real grandmother in order to relocate his great-grandmother in the lineage chain. What a way to treat your granny.

Tamou is about as Aussie as a three-piece suit at Bondi. You might see one, but it looks flippin' strange.

His mother revealed that Tamou dreamed of playing for the Kiwis when growing up in Palmerston North. The Queensland Cowboy forward took the first big step towards that last year, when he was in the Kiwis' Four Nations train-on squad although crucially, as events turned out, he did not actually play.

Like all good mums, Mrs Tamou is supporting her boy, but she's talking a load of rot by claiming Steve Kearney's Kiwis needed to move quicker for Tamou.

They already had by including him in their plans last year when Tamou was more than willing.

International sport will be a sort of auction for services at times but in this case, everyone involved should have accepted that the hammer had, in effect, come down.

- NZ Herald

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