Luke Keary will make his debut for NSW in Origin I — but only after one hell of a fight from Queensland powerbrokers.
Luke Keary will make his debut for NSW in Origin I — but only after one hell of a fight from Queensland powerbrokers.

Bennett opens up on Maroons’ chase for Keary

Maroons coach Wayne Bennett has called for a review of State of Origin's eligibility rules following the farce that will see proud Queenslander Luke Keary make his NSW debut on Wednesday night.

In the latest Origin selection circus, Keary will run out in his maiden Blues jumper in Game One at Adelaide Oval - six years after he was so desperate to wear Maroon he wrote a letter to the NRL asking to be declared a Queenslander.

Keary had more than reasonable grounds for Maroons status: he was born in Ipswich, lived in the region for 10 years and was chosen in Queensland's junior Emerging Origin program alongside Anthony Milford and Dylan Napa in 2012.

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Luke Keary (left) was once in the sights of the Maroons, who Wayne Bennett now coaches.
Luke Keary (left) was once in the sights of the Maroons, who Wayne Bennett now coaches.

But while Milford and Napa have since graduated to Queensland's senior Origin ranks, Keary finds himself in the New South Wales system, handed the sky-blue No.6 jumper he never wanted to wear.

Under the code's representative eligibility rules revised in December 2012, Keary's Maroons application was rejected and he was ordered to represent the Blues.

Understandably reluctant to rock the political boat, Keary has tried to stay out of the selection debate regarding his Origin allegiance, but Bennett said birthright should be a consideration for players with dual-eligibility status.

"If all the other criteria is a bit messy and muddy, I suppose that (a player's birthplace) should be a criteria," Bennett said.

"Most rules need revising from time to time, things do change.

"There is a lot of change in our game and who plays the game now, so maybe it is worthwhile looking at the rules, but it won't help anybody this year.

NSW's Luke Keary during NSW State of Origin training at Morry Breen Oval, Kanwal. Picture: Brett Costello
NSW's Luke Keary during NSW State of Origin training at Morry Breen Oval, Kanwal. Picture: Brett Costello

"We have a wonderful player anyway at five-eighth in Cameron Munster and we have Daly Cherry-Evans at halfback so it's not as if we don't have good players."

Keary will be a critical part of NSW's playmaking spine in the series opener, but Bennett said Queensland have previously tried to have the Ipswich-born pivot cleared for Maroons selection.

"Keary has been considered for Queensland," he said.

"I understand the QRL have sent letters away and everything else, but they (the NRL) didn't consider that he should be a Queenslander, so he is playing for NSW.

"I first went to a meeting about that (Origin eligibility) 10 or 15 years ago because it was a shemozzle then, so what's changed?

"I was there all those years ago and I felt we made good decisions then about it, we haven't had a lot of problems with it since but there is always one example that will challenge us all.

"Queensland has done all it can do and we have to live it."

Asked if Queensland would select a player who previously applied to play for NSW, Bennett said: "I would ... if he was the best player, I would take him."

Originally published as Bennett opens up on Maroons' chase for Keary


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