Former Kiwis coach Graham Lowe has lamented the loyalty and respect shown by players in both the NRL and international rugby league.

Speaking to Radio Sport's Martin Devlin, Lowe lambasted the manner in which North Queensland Cowboys star Jason Taumalolo turned his back on the Kiwis a day prior to the squad announcement for the upcoming World Cup last week.

"I read that he [Taumalolo] wanted to play for Tonga in this World Cup so that he could inspire young Tongan boys to go on and play in the NRL, I accept that, and I totally respect that some of the guys want to play for their Island nations," Lowe said.

"But what I can't accept is the timing of it, leaving it as he has done right up to the last minute, being part of the promotion for the World Cup, and accepting all that without saying [anything].


"If he wanted to do what he said he wants to do, he should have put his hand up at the start of the year and said 'Listen all you young Tongan boys, I'm playing for Tonga this year, and you should come try and have a go and try make the NRL'.

"I think the timing of it, the way they've all followed the leader, particularly the ones that were already engaged in one way or another with the Kiwis side, it's been a disgrace, and a total lack of respect for the Kiwis jersey."

The 71-year-old also suggested that rugby league's loose eligibility laws was a key component in the lack of commitment and loyalty shown by players at the international level of the game.

"International football is not about grabbing an atlas and deciding which country you're going to play for," he said.

"You get one chance to play for your country and that should be it.

"For me, it's black and white. [It's] such an honour and privilege to represent your country, and I totally respect that these guys want to play for their Island nations, but they've got to put their hand up and say 'This is what I want to do'."

The former Queensland State of Origin coach went on to criticise both New Zealand Rugby League and the Rugby League International Federation [RLIF] for a lack of leadership.

"It's not just one player; it's a mentality that's crept into the game at that international or professional level of rugby league.

"I don't know how it's crept in, but it's a lack of strong leadership from the International Board [RLIF], the leadership from the New Zealand Rugby League has certainly been questionable, but there's a mentality that's been allowed to creep in.

"There are so many young people in this country that would give their right arm to play, or do anything for their country, to represent their country.

"As the tournament goes on, it'll get washed over and everyone will forget about it as the emotional heat goes off it. I won't forget about it. I don't think they should ever, ever be considered again for the Kiwis.

"That's it. They've made their choice, that's it.

"Never mind all this wishy-washy thing about 'It's an opportunity to spread the game' and all that bull****, I don't go with that at all."

Lowe's continued his tirade by claiming that rugby league stars are beginning to lose understanding of what he described as "values of life".

"I never had one player ever leave, any team I coached from Otahuhu through to Wigan through to anywhere at all - I would have killed the bastards if they'd wandered.

"No one ever left; you were loyal to that club.

"Loyalty to the club - that's why people don't understand how important these rugby league players or rugby union clubs throughout our society are.

"They are teaching and instilling - and our volunteer coaches are doing it as well, unheralded - they are teaching more than sport.

"They are teaching the values of life, what respect is, what loyalty is, what humility is.

"They are the things that are being chosen, and as these fellas are getting older and they're losing sight of where they started, their heroes of when they started, problems are coming in.

"I hear some of the comments coming from some of these players now in the NRL... Those guys need a big dose of reality, they need a cold bucket of sick chucked over their heads because the game doesn't owe anybody anything.

"We all owe the game. Without the game, we wouldn't even be talking.

"We owe the game, we've got to pay the game respect.

"I think they're slowly eroding away something that was absolutely critical to the game, and not only rugby league, but sport in general."