Manly veteran Kieran Foran admits the Australian Rugby League Commission's decision to scrap the representative round Test window from next year's calendar is "disappointing".
Foran played his 23rd Test for New Zealand on Saturday, when the NRL went on hiatus for the weekend to give Pacific Tests and State of Origin matches the full attention of the rugby league audience.
The Kiwis' win over Tonga was both the first professional match of rugby league in New Zealand and the first Test match between two Oceania sides since 2019.
Samoa and the Cook Islands squared off in a Test match of their own as part of representative round, while Papua New Guinea upset Fiji and the New Zealand women's side defeated Tonga.
The weekend concluded with the second State of Origin match in Perth on Sunday night.
Foran said it was a privilege to have the chance to play for his country again.
"To be back out there representing your country, it doesn't get any bigger than that," he said.
"It was great to be back in camp with the boys.
"It's been a long time."
But players won't have the chance to line up in a similar Test window next year. From 2023, the second State of Origin game will shift back to a Wednesday night and the mid-season Test matches will be scrapped.
"We saw on the weekend just how much it meant to the players to represent their countries," Foran said.
"To not be able to find space for it in the calendar is disappointing."
NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo insisted international football remained a high priority and said the ARLC hoped to introduce a more extensive Test program at the conclusion of the 2023 NRL season.
"The Commission are 100 per cent committed to international football," Abdo said.
"What we're doing is thinking strategically around the construct of the season and having an international window in October or November.
"Instead of having just a single round, we can start to think about tours, tournaments and regular content each and every year as opposed to just doing a one-off (round). That's incredibly exciting."
New Zealand back-rower Isaiah Papali'i said he would take any opportunity to play for his country.
"Whether that comes in the middle of the year, the start of the year or at the end, I'm open to the opportunity whenever it arises," he said.
But Foran was unsure whether shifting the representative round to the end of the year was the answer.
"It's just about trying to find the right time," he said.
"Obviously with Origin going back to Wednesday nights next season it makes it pretty difficult to have a standalone rep weekend.
"The World Cup at the end of the year is a great opportunity for players to represent their country but during the season, it would be great to have something like what we had on the weekend."
Foran said he hoped to have the chance to add to his Test caps in October, when the Kiwis travel to England to compete for World Cup glory.
"Hopefully I can be a part of it at the end of the year," he said.
Australian Associated Press
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