Former Kangaroo Shane Webcke.
Former Kangaroo Shane Webcke.

'No more mickey mouse selections'

SHANE Webcke, one of the most respected modern-day Kangaroos, has called on the newly-formed ARL Commission to immediately end the embarrassment over 'mickey mouse' rep selections.

Although Webcke was conciliatory in relation to the selection for Australia of turncoat Kiwi James Tamou for Friday's Anzac Test, he said the status-of-qualification sham had to end because it made the 104-year-old game a laughing stock.

"I don't blame James - in fact I feel sorry for the bloke," Webcke said of the giant Cowboys front rower who this week was controversially selected to wear the green and gold against the country in which he was born.

"The saying 'don't judge me until you have walked in my shoes' applies in this case. When I grew up I wanted to play for Queensland and Australia - the only if (was whether I'd be good enough. There was no loyalty decision to be made, no conscience call to make.

"But now, with so many young guys from New Zealand and the Pacific Islands coming to Australia to find a career in the NRL, the situation is much more complex. James admitted as much in a TV interview on Monday when he said his decision was career based."

Webcke, whose former Broncos team mate and close friend Brad Thorn once faced a similar dilemma, says the qualification guidelines for Origin and Test football were far too rubbery.

"At 21, Tamou should not be placed in the position to choose between countries," he said. "When kids sign their first senior contract - at around 17 years of age - that's when they should make their declaration on which state and country they want to represent. At that age I suspect the outside influences will be minor. It will be a decision made from the heart, not the head."

Webcke suspects the choice made by Tamou to switch allegiances was based on playing State of Origin football, and not at Test level.

"I reckon the chance to play Origin footy convinced him to change his allegiance, and Test selection was a by-product of that decision," he said.

"And I don't condemn or judge him for that because I have never been in that situation. I have no idea what it is like for a young Kiwi bloke living in Australia to be faced with that kind of choice, but I don't imagine it would be easy.

"But this situation should never happen again. It is a poor look for our game and the ARL Commission needs to invoke new guidelines right now. It's an opportunity for the Commission to bare its teeth."

Tamou was born in New Zealand, played for the Maoris in 2008 and 2010 and was a member of the Kiwi train-on squad for last year's Four Nations tournament.