Ben Blaschke, NRL.com
Sydney Roosters fullback Anthony Minichiello has hit out at the controversial allegiance rule that denied him the opportunity to play his 12th State of Origin game for NSW next Wednesday night, describing it as “silly” and short-sighted.
Originally put forward as one of a handful of options to replace injured Blues fullback Jarryd Hayne for the return clash at Suncorp Stadium, Minichiello – who will line up for the Roosters on Friday night instead in their blockbuster against rivals Canterbury – was ruled ineligible after pledging his allegiance to Italy in late 2011.
The rule states that players cannot change their allegiance for a full two years once the decision has been made, but the veteran custodian told NRL.com that the lack of flexibility was ultimately going to damage the growth of the game.
“I’m disappointed about the rule. I think the rule is a bit silly,” the veteran fullback told NRL.com. “I think that if you play for NSW and Queensland and then you don’t get picked for Australia in a World Cup year, you should be able to go and play for your family’s country of origin.
“It’s a World Cup – if you want the other countries to be competitive and you want the best players playing in the tournament, then if they don’t get picked for Australia they should be able to go and do so. If we want the game to grow and be strong and be competitive that’s what they have to do – particularly in a World Cup year.”
The great irony is that Minichiello’s ineligibility essentially ensured Josh Dugan came into the NSW squad instead – the promotion of the Dragons fullback paving the way for that ill-fated Sunday night drinking session with former Canberra teammate Blake Ferguson.
But controversies aside, Minichiello said it was hard to get around the fact that the rule was short-sighted.
“At the end of the day, you want the best players playing in the World Cup,” he said. “Why would you want Australia, New Zealand and England dominating the small ones and having 50-odd points put on them? That’s not going to attract more fans to the World Cup or the game in general moving forward.”
Despite Minichiello’s frustrations, one man who will be pleased he isn’t away with the NSW Origin team will be Roosters coach Trent Robinson, whose side faces an uphill battle against the in-form Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Friday night.
With Pearce and Maloney unavailable, Daniel Mortimer and Mitchell Aubusson have been called in to fill the void although Minichiello believes they still have the quality to secure victory.
“It’s always tough when you’ve got your 7 and 6 out of the squad but hopefully we can all come together and put in a good performance,” he said.
“I think everyone knows how everyone plays and the structure that we do have. There have to be a few adjustments but the goal is to stick to what we know and how we play. The guys that are coming in are part of that so it should work smoothly.
“Morts in particular has been fantastic for us all year. He has trained at half at various stages even though he has been coming off the bench at hooker. The main thing though is that he knows the structure of our play and he’ll slot in nicely.”
The Bulldogs are also missing players to Origin, with five-eighth Josh Reynolds and centre Josh Morris in the Blues squad, but with the likes of James Graham and Sam Kasiano back in the fold Minichiello knows they will be a very different outfit to the one the Roosters belted 38-0 back in Round 6.
“It’s going to be totally different Friday night,” he said. “They had a lot of players out back then but they’re starting to hit their straps now so it will be a completely different game, that’s for sure.
“We’ve fallen out of our groove a bit too and haven’t played the best footy. It’s always hard trying to be up every week but certainly the past few weeks we haven’t been at our best so we’ll be looking to get back to how we were playing at the start of the year and try and get a bit more consistent footy going.”
No doubt some good performances would also help Minichiello’s cause as he looks to secure his future beyond 2013. The veteran No.1 has stated his desire to remain at the club for one more season and although the Roosters have indicated that he might just get his wish they are yet to enter into any formal discussions.
“My manager has just come back from overseas so I’ve got to catch up with him in the next couple of weeks and map out a little plan,” he said. “We’re not rushed to do anything right away. I spoke to ‘Robbo’ (Robinson) earlier in the year and we’re pretty comfortable with where we’re at and we don’t mind making a decision later in the season.
“But it’s all pretty positive. It’s always nice when the side is going well and you’ve got a group that is working well together on and off the field.”