• Justin Hodges is chaired off the field after his final NRL premiership game for the Brisbane Broncos in September, 2015. (AAP)Source: AAP
Despite suggestions the All Stars might be cancelled, its popularity appears stronger than ever with strong Indigenous participation in the code. And with League Nation Live premiering tonight on NITV, there's never been a better time to get involved.
1 Mar 2016 - 1:21 PM  UPDATED 1 Mar 2016 - 5:41 PM

When it comes to Indigenous representation the NRL is one up on the AFL with higher rates of indigenous participation.

With the All Stars week planning to go ahead in 2017, its numbers could keep growing.

Since he first started playing, former NRL superstar Justin Hodges says he has seen more and more Indigenous players drawn to the game.

"We gotta say thank you to the guys who paved the way for us you know if you look back when we first watching the game you know Ricky Walford, Anthony Mundine and Steve Renouf and these guys that I've idolized since I was a young kid that made me realise that I can come down and chase my dream,” he says.

related reading
Johnathan Thurston withdraws from Indigenous All Stars game
World Club challenge takes JT's focus away from next month's NRL Indigenous All Stars game.

Despite talk of the annual pre-season Indigenous All Stars match being axed, nearly 40,000 spectators turned up to the event recently.

Proof, say its supporters of the positive impact the game still has on the wider community.

"Just have a look at the All Stars concept that how many of our people turn out to watch us how many of those people are wearing jerseys with the boys names on it and that's obviously a big thanks to like I said the guys that I named before,” says Hodges.

The NRL is showing up rival codes by performing better in this area than others; in 2016 12 per cent of NRL players, and 4 per cent of staff identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

This surpasses the AFL which has 9 per cent of its players, and 3 per cent of its staff identified as indigenous.

The NRL is also aiming for 5 per cent of staff to be Indigenous by 2017, and 15 per cent of players.

Meanwhile former Fitzroy and Brisbane great and AFL Victoria Football Development Manager, Chris Johnson says there's no reason those number aren't achievable in the AFL too.

related reading
Indigenous All Stars: 'Thapu Wani Watina', meet the 19yo artist behind the jerseys
The Indigenous All Stars’ jerseys featured her artwork. She’s had exhibitions at the Australian Open, Hong Kong and Tokyo. And she’s met the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - all at the tender age of 19. This is Chern'ee Sutton.

“They do very well in enhancing their rugby league and their presence in those states: NSW, NT and QLD. Where there are big numbers of Indigenous populations,” he said.

Rugby League is also kicking goals with the women's game, which is currently the sport's fastest growing demographic, Mark deWeerd from the NRL’s Indigenous Programs says.

“It's important to the community, so for us to have high representation of ATSI players in the game: it just provides more role models for our communities, enables them to give back.

If recent figures are anything to go by, Indigenous representation is heading in the right direction. 

Love league? Watch the premiere episode of NITV's new sport and entertainment program League Nation Live tonight! 

League Nation Live
Hashtag #LeagueNationLive
Every Tuesday @ 7:30pm
Starting 1st of March 2016