State of Origin bigger test for James Tamou

GREG FORD
Last updated 05:00 18/04/2012

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OPINION: What an insult. What a shambles. What a bloody dog's breakfast. I'm talking of course about rugby league and I'm sorry Tony Smith because I could not disagree with your column more.

I can't stop "bellyaching" about New Zealand-born James Tamou's decision to play for the Kangaroos rather than the Kiwis because he has insulted a sporting nation in the most egregious way.

We're constantly told that playing for your country is the high point in any international sports career. It's one of the reasons why we shell out big bucks to watch test rugby league.

But now we have Tamou exposing this concept as nothing more than a giant sham.

Test rugby league is not the epitome of his sport; State of Origin is. New Zealand league fans would beg to differ only because we do not have a similar series of such standing.

But Tamou has rubbed salt into our wounds.

We can no longer claim Benji Marshall is the best thing running around on two legs in rugby league. How can we when he hasn't played at the highest level of the game. No wonder Sonny Bill Williams switched codes.

And perhaps Marshall, the Kiwis' skipper, who reacted to Tamou's news by saying the Kiwis didn't need him, is bitter because there is more than a shred of truth in what Tamou says.

Marshall may even have decided deep down that Origin is the epitome in rugby league and that all he has achieved in the game – even his side's world cup win – pales in significance.

That must rankle and it must rankle too that we have a Kiwi playing in a Kangaroos jumper finally setting the record straight – even if his motivation was rather dubious.

This summer I found it fascinating to listen to Barry Richards while in New Zealand commentating on cricket. Richards is considered a giant of his game despite, through no fault of his own, playing only a handful of tests during his career.

His home country, South Africa, was excluded from international cricket and, although Richards sounds at ease with his past, it was easy to detect a tone of regret in his voice when talking about his thwarted test cricketing aspirations.

He will go to his grave an unfulfilled cricketer. Many are now arguing Tamou will also harbour similar regrets.

He may very well do.

But I'd suggest the same logic should apply to Marshall. He and his mates know in their heart of hearts when the annual Origin slugfest rolls around they are missing out on testing themselves in and against the best competition in the world and that they will never ever know how they would have stacked up.

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Tamou has exposed the giant gap in their league careers. The truth hurts sometimes. It hurt that Tamou spoke out and at the same time revealed the massive disconnect between the rugby league world's players and fanbase.

- The Press

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