Niue is welcoming the chance to escape the international rugby league wilderness but says a quota system being employed for the Emerging Nations World Championship will prevent them from being able to field their best team.
The Polynesian island is one of 11 nations from Europe, Asia and the Pacific competing in the revived tournament, which kicks off in Sydney in October.
Head coach Brendan Perenara has already named his 25 man squad, which includes players former Tonga rugby and league international Eddie Paea and ex Wests Tigers squad member Wes Lolo.
But he said plans to include the likes of brothers Toafofoa and Patrick Sipley, who play for Manly and the Warriors, have been scuppered because of a quota system which means NRL contracted players are each weighted at 20 points.
“They‘ve put in a 100-point system like they use it in the Ron Massey Cup and Shield and, I think, the New South Wales Cup here (in Sydney),” he said.
“They‘re going to run it the same way they run it there so they‘re just going to keep a hold on the teams so there‘s no mis-matches, I‘m thinking.”
Niue have not played an international match since completing a 2-0 series sweep over South Africa in November 2016.
The Rock will face Malta and the Philippines, who are both ranked above them, in pool play and Perenara said the chance to play four test matches, earn world rankings points and have a chance to earn a wildcard into the Rugby League World Cup qualification process will provide no shortage of motivation.
“I think it‘s rewarding the smaller nations for the hard work and efforts they‘ve been putting in through the international games they‘ve been playing along the way (because) it‘s all self-funded and it gives us an incentive to play for,” he said.
“It‘s a bit of history-making, the third Emerging Nations Championship that‘s run – I think the last ones were in 1995 and 2000 – and it‘s just a privilege and an honour for Niue to be in this one.”