There’s little doubt that Jason Taumalolo will be on the English shores with his Tongan teammates in a few weeks, but the 29-year-old is facing a battle to feature in any of his national side’s World Cup group games.
The New Zealand-born forward, who switched allegiances to Tonga after 10 Caps for the Kiwis, entered an early guilty plea after being charged with a Grade 2 offence for catching Isaiah Papali’i with a shoulder in the Cowboys’ NRL finals loss to Parramatta.
As a result of rugby league’s game-wide disciplinary rules on suspensions, the three-match ban handed to Taumalolo will keep him out of Tonga’s group games against Papua New Guinea, Cook Islands and Wales, and he’s not taking the implications lightly.
The 29-year-old is demanding the sport changes its rules so that bans picked up for club teams only count domestically, therefore the only way to be banned for your country would be by playing international rugby league, thus keeping the two separate, much like they do in football.
In a statement, Taumalolo pleaded: “This could be my last World Cup for Tonga and I don’t want to let my teammates nor our fans down. I don’t believe I should miss out on Test matches for Tonga because of something I did playing for the Cowboys.
“I like how the Premier League soccer works, where you are penalised for any indiscretion in that competition, not across other competitions.
“My suspension should count towards NRL games for the Cowboys, not penalising me for international matches at the World Cup.”
It’s now a race against time for Taumalolo to have his suspension altered in time for the World Cup.
The only other option for Tonga and their powerhouse forward would be to find a loophole, much like England have with John Bateman who picked up a late-season ban playing for Wigan in Super League.
Bateman was picked in the England Knights squad last week, a move that will allow the former Canberra back-rower to run down his ban ahead of the World Cup next month.