Blockbusting prop Sam Kasiano has fended off fresh requests to commit to the Kiwis or Kangaroos before tonight's NRL grand final as New Zealand's world cup-winning captain has warned of a losing battle in the fight for key players unless a financial counter can be found to Australia's State of Origin cash carrot.
Kasiano, the Auckland-born NRL prop of the year, is a certainty for Kiwis selection tomorrow, having previously signed a non-binding letter of intent stating his wish to represent his nation of birth.
But whether he actually lines up in the black jersey in the October 13 Kiwis v Kangaroos trans-Tasman test remains a mystery, with Kasiano and his management refusing approaches from the New Zealand Rugby League and the ARL Commission in the lead-in to tonight's NRL grand final in Sydney.
Kasiano, aged 22, has been a star for the Bulldogs this year in their run into the season finale against the Melbourne Storm.
"He is going to make a call before the teams are announced on Monday," his manager Damien McGregor-Lowndes said. "The Kiwis will no doubt look to name him. And as it stands, they have no reason not to name him. But we will be trying to ensure people will be informed before the teams are named publicly.
"Nothing will be announced before the game . . . he really just wants the focus to be on the grand final."
The battle to secure Kasiano has reignited league's international eligibility argument which flared again when James Tamou was poached to the New South Wales State of Origin squad and into the Kangaroos.
Nathan Cayless, who led New Zealand to historic world cup victory over Australia in 2009, said the likes of Tamou, and perhaps now Kasiano, would continue to adopt the green-and-gold battle colours unless the Kiwis countered the $A50,000-per-game players received for competing in the State of Origin.
“It would be disappointing if Sam Kasiano didn't play for New Zealand because I understand he's been earmarked for it and has been in the system for the last couple of years,” Cayless said.
“But in saying that the carrot that's there, to play State of Origin, is a pretty big one at the moment.
“State of Origin is a massive industry and unless the NZRL do something to provide as much of an incentive to play for New Zealand in terms of the representative payments there'll be that discrepancy between playing State of Origin or for your country.”
A source within the NZRL had earlier said that the sporting body had hoped to be informed of Kasiano's eligibility yesterday.
Australian media have also reported that Kasiano's manager has sought clarification from the ARL Commission about mooted changes to Origin eligibility rules. One suggested change would would prevent NSW and Queensland from selecting any player who did not reside in the respective states before the age of 15.
Kasiano was 16 when he moved to Queensland.
- © Fairfax NZ News