Off the Wall

Yesterday the daily media added the Dragons Neville Costigan to the list of players for whom Sunday's grand final provides "redemption".

But in many ways the Costigan story is as fascinating a one as that of Todd Carney - with the Dragons coach providing a common thread.

Wayne Bennett has been remarkably frank today in admitting that he missed the opportunity to sign Carney - an opportunity partly blocked by the Canberra Raiders who Carney played for, and Bennett once coached! And regrets missing it!

And Carney has revealed that it was a one on one meeting with Bennett after he was sacked by the Raiders that helped put him on the right track.

Given the grand final week atmosphere that abounds, both deserve credit for their frankness.

But Wayne Bennett has had an even more interesting role in the success story Neville Costigan is today.

In 2006 when Costigan was playing with the Wayne Bennett coached Brisbane Broncos, he was sensationally sacked by the club just 52 days before the Broncos won the premiership. Along with the current Warriors player, Brett Seymour, he missed playing in a premiership winning side after off field indiscretions saw the Broncos tear up their contracts.

He dusted himself down, and was signed up by the Raiders (the club which punted Todd Carney) for the 2007 and 2008 seasons.

In yet another twist, when Bennett joined the Dragons as coach last year, one of his first signings was Costigan.

This one has more twists and turns than we are going to find in the "hung" federal parliament for however long it lasts!

But there is yet another factor in the Neville Costigan story that needs to be mentioned.

Neville's mother is Papua New Guinean. He was born in Rabaul, East New Britain, though he played his junior football in Mackay, North Queensland.

Even though he never played in Queensland, Costigan has an enormous following in PNG today. He is a tough, no nonsense forward - something that appeals to league fans in our northern neighbour.

Neville Costigan is undoubtedly playing well enough to make the Kangaroos team for the Four Nations matches next month. He was one of the stars of the maroons clean sweep this year.

But if he is not chosen for Australia, he deserves to be given an opportunity to achieve a goal I know he has - to play for the PNG Kumuls in the Four Nations.

Sadly, the current intransigent attitude of the ARL stands in the way of that.

And we have to ask why?

There is ample precedent for Australian players being allowed to represent the country of their birth in world cups and other international fixtures. Adrian Lamb did so - while also playing for the Maroons in the State of Origin.

The ARL, and the international board, chop and change representation rules at whim.

As it stands, because he played for the Maroons he cannot be picked for PNG.

Well if he is not chosen in the Kangaroos squad, he should be allowed to play for PNG - and strengthen the Kumuls side which has won the right to play against Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain.

What possible harm can it do the ARL, or rugby league in Australia, if he is allowed to fulfil an ambition to represent the country of his birth? And what possible harm would come if before his career ends, he represents both PNG and Australia?

Neville Costigan is a vital cog in the Dragons grand final team - and if that leads to selection in the Kangaroos it will add to another remarkable success story.

But if it doesn't he should get the chance to represent the country of his birth...and add much needed interest to a Four Nations series that is in danger of being largely irrelevant.

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