NSW question Mulitalo's Origin eligibility

·3-min read

Drama has erupted on the eve of State of Origin II with NSWRL questioning the eligibility of Ronaldo Mulitalo, who has been named to debut on Sunday night.

The theatrics ignited on Saturday night after Mulitalo, 21, was named on the wing following an injury to fullback Reece Walsh, who was ruled out with a hamstring strain.

Queries were then raised on social media as to whether Mulitalo is even eligible to play for the Maroons after an article surfaced from 2019 which claims he moved to Queensland from New Zealand when he was 14.

Under current eligibility requirements, players must have lived in either NSW or Queensland prior to their 13th birthday.

Further complicating the matter is that, despite that, he has already played for Queensland under 18 and under-20 sides.

In 2019 - the year of his NRL debut - he also represented Samoa in one Test and the United States at the Rugby League World Cup Nines.

It has prompted the NSWRL to ask the NRL for a please explain on the eve of the biggest match of Mulitalo's career.

The QRL believe he is eligible because of those junior Queensland appearances, but the final call will be made by the NRL on Sunday.

It brought the sensational drama to new heights on Saturday after Queensland's plans were flipped on their head by Walsh's last-minute injury.

The 18-year-old fullback had been the centre of attention this week as he prepared to debut for the Maroons on the back of just seven NRL games.

His omission hadn't been confirmed or even filtered into Blues camp until coach Brad Fittler addressed media on Saturday afternoon, after their own session had been run behind closed doors.

But the coach said it wouldn't matter who wore the No.1, given Queensland's next man up Valentine Holmes played fullback in Townsville's series opener.

"I'm sure they'll be right," he said.

"I'm surprised we haven't heard anything earlier; we love the drama around Origin, that's what makes it so great.

"It won't change our game plan or game ... it won't be (a distraction) for us."

Walsh's late withdrawal was another twist in a build-up that was started when Fittler suggested the teen had a penchant for milking penalties, while a COVID-19 curveball forced the Blues into a bubble.

That comes after the series opener was shifted from Melbourne to Townsville, while Sydney's Game III could also be relocated due to the latest coronavirus cluster.

While the Blues literally shut the doors on Saturday, Queensland coach Paul Green just shut down questions.

Green was coy after the side lost the services of ex-referees boss Bernard Sutton, whose brother Gerard will be officiating on Sunday.

The NRL had reportedly asked Sutton to reconsider the Maroons role given the potential conflict of interest.

All while former NRL referee Gavin Badger has remained in camp with the Blues.

"You just want consistency, that's all we're asking for," Green said when probed on the issue.

"That's not for me to say (if Badger should be working with the Blues); you guys can work it out, you guys are smart."

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