If you were one of those people who was disappointed when the announcement was made that there would be no more mid-season international tests, you are not alone. 

International rugby league is a part of the game that has, sadly and unfortunately, been neglected by the bigwigs in recent times.

Although work is being done to combat that and give it a bigger platform and more significance than it receives, there is still work to be done.

But more importantly and perhaps an aspect that goes unnoticed is just what it means to represent your country.

For players that are ineligible for Origin, the belief is that there is no higher honour and that donning an international jersey can even usurp winning a premiership.

It speaks volumes when a simple moment such as Jason Taumalolo pledging his allegiance to Tonga is enough to convince young kids to be proud to Tongan.

That no matter whether you also have Kiwi blood or not, you play for the country that speaks to you, that feels right, and the country you see your hero playing for.

Regrettably, on the flipside, the monetary benefits of representing nations deemed outside the top tier does differ to those in it.

For some players, that is the underlying challenge; do you stay true to your heart and represent your people or take the money and represent a top nation?

None of us can begrudge players for making a call either way but it paints an interesting narrative in relation to how far behind international rugby league has been. .

The power of the Island nations continues to grow and Penrith Panthers winger Brian To’o recently summed it up well.

“It’s a massive opportunity to play for Australia but my people and my family mean more,” To’o said. 

That desire to represent where they have come from and what they believe in, is a growing one in rugby league and it is what the international game needs.

Because let’s face it, who is not a fan of watching the Tongan Sipi Tau and the Samoan Siva Tau?

The raw emotion, the tingles you get down your spine and the passion doused on the proud faces of every representative.

It tells you what it means to the players. Just look at every bit of emotion from this clash in 2017 between Samoa and Tonga.

And one of the best parts of seeing the culture brought out among the two sides is the immense level of respect that they go on to show each other.

Finally, to further show you just what international rugby league means to the island nations, we leave you with this.

A passionate, heartfelt, Fijian hymn. Called the Noqu Masu hymn, it does not take much to see the pride exuded by each and every player here.


By ricky

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