NZ and Pacific teams proposed for Origin

Former coach Graham Lowe says New Zealand and Pacific Islands nations should join State of Origin.
Former coach Graham Lowe says New Zealand and Pacific Islands nations should join State of Origin.

Former Queensland coach Graham Lowe wants State of Origin expanded to include New Zealand and a combined Pacific Islands team, rejecting a proposal for looser eligibility in the interstate series.

Current NSW coach Brad Fittler has advocated relaxed rules to allow more big-name players onto the Origin stage whenever it returns in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The money-spinning series would go to another level of interest if the likes of superstar forward Jason Taumalolo was eligible for Queensland, Fittler told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Tauamalolo's first professional deal was signed with the North Queensland Cowboys although he is registered to the NRL as a Tongan.

Lowe, who steered the Maroons to Origin success in 1991, acknowledged Origin's popularity but said it had lost integrity through its lax eligibility rules.

He restated his preference for adding a New Zealand team as part of an overall re-modelling of rugby league.

He also proposed an Island side be introduced to a four-way series, capitalising on the rise of Tonga as an international power.

"Resource-wise, those Island nations would find it hard to do it on their own but an Island-team that encompassed the Islands, that would be a start," Lowe told AAP.

"It could be a combination of Tonga, Fiji and Samoa. There's certainly enough firepower there.

"I would see a new representative window altogether. There's easily enough talent from New Zealand and the criteria for Origin could become far more stringent."

The prospect of a Kiwis team in State of Origin has been mooted previously.

Former New Zealand captain Benji Marshall is among those to have vented at how Kiwis-eligible players had effectively aligned themselves with Australia by choosing to play Origin.

Lowe said a revamped post-coronavirus calendar should promote the importance of Test matches, which he believes have become an irrelevance to those running the NRL.

"However, it's going to start again, it's got to start with a fresh look.

"The biggest risk to international football is the fact it's being disrespected by the clubs. The clubs haven't allowed any window for it to be played."

Australian Associated Press