I really don't understand rugby league sometimes.

It's a sport I'm passionate about and follow closely but the people involved in this game continue to shoot itself in the foot and erode the game's credibility - at least in the eyes of the average sports fan and that annoys me.

We're better than that.

The events of the past two days sum up everything that is wrong with the sport. Where else is it possible to see a player named to represent one country only to change his mind 24 hours later and commit to a rival nation? How is it acceptable that a group of players train with the Kiwis over the past month but at the 11th hour, with no warning or heads-up for the very players and coaching staff they've been working with, up and switch to Tonga? Worst of all, how can some fans think this is OK?


It is disgraceful in every way. No-one involved in this horrible mess comes out with much credibility.

The New Zealand Rugby League is in such a shambles that I doubt they are capable of righting the ship without significant change. If the sledgehammer to the head that is a group of players thinking so little of a tier one nation that they would give up the financial reward and any genuine chance of winning a World Cup can't wake up the governing body I don't know what will.

Let's get a few things straight. If those players with Tongan heritage had come out a few weeks ago declaring their allegiance to Tonga there wouldn't be an issue. I'd be celebrating the fact they want to represent a smaller nation because they chose to follow their heart. I hope more players do this as it would be good for the game. But this isn't what happened. What really happened was a case of these players wanting to make a statement. They gave every indication they would be available for New Zealand only to raise their middle finger and walk at the very last minute. I don't care what reason they have or whether the rules allow it - the behaviour is an insult to anyone that follows the sport. Do they think that little of the sponsors shelling out the dollars to fund this World Cup? Do they not care about the families out there that paid for tickets, bought merchandise or frankly in this time-poor age gave up their time to watch and read and listen about the Kiwis?

They have embarrassed the game and I have lost all respect for Jason Taumalolo, David Fusitu'a, Manu Mau'u and co.

I accept the rules allow this but I bet when the rule-makers came up with this plan they were made to allow those players that missed out on tier one nations having the opportunity to play for tier two nations therefore making the World Cup stronger. They didn't picture the rules being exploited like this. I have no problem with those players choosing to play for Tonga if their reasons were legitimate and if they did so in a respectful manner - the game deserves that even if they are pissed off with the NZRL and Kiwis coach David Kidwell.

Do I feel sorry for the Kiwis - well I do feel sorry for the selectors and Kidwell. They've been embarrassed in all of this. Is Kidwell out of his depth? Quite clearly. Should the players have a right to be upset with him and the organisation's handling of the Canberra debacle? Yes probably. But this is not the right way to deal with it. It is simply too late in the piece to think about a coaching change. We have to live with Kidwell through this campaign and hope that his pride and passion for New Zealand will be enough to inspire the 24 men that were named in the squad yesterday. I'm not convinced about his credentials and it worries me that a man with such little high level experience was appointed but there is no point in firing shots at him now. He needs support - at least until this campaign is over.

The NZRL on the other hand needs to be seriously held to account. Who appointed Kidwell? Who allowed the culture of the team to decline to the point where the captain and senior player thought it OK to be out at 5am the morning after an embarrassing loss buying cocaine? How did it get so bad that Jesse Bromwich - the national captain - thought the toughest part of the whole saga was fronting up to his club captain - a man who happens to be captain of the nation's greatest rival? Why is the culture so bad that a number of eligible players went out of their way to stick it to the Kiwis?

The NZRL has bumbled and stumbled, covered up, told half-truths and shown no ability to lead or govern through this whole mess. The blood is quite clearly on their hands.

Kidwell might not admit it publicly but I can promise you he has been let down badly by the NZRL. He and his management team felt they were hung out to dry by the events in Canberra. They were made to look like fools by the NZRL top brass. The poor behaviour and terrible results in 2016 should have been the warning the NZRL needed to realise there were major issues with the Kiwis. Nothing was done. As a result the incident in Canberra happened. Still the game was more interested in appearing to be seen to be on top of the situation rather than actually fixing the issues. Now we're in a total mess on the eve of the biggest tournament in the game.

It is inexcusable.

Through the darkest days the best lessons are learned. I hope the international game makes change to their eligibility rules as a result of the past two days. Hopefully the recently shaken-up NZRL board can see that change is needed in the front office. And hopefully the 24 players that Kidwell has to work with will do the game's fans proud over the next couple of months.