• Indigenous All Stars performing a war dance before their annual clash with the World All Stars at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. (AAP)Source: AAP
Owen Craigie says an Australian Aboriginal team should be playing among international representative rugby league teams, and the Aboriginal team would go close to winning any competition it plays in.
By
Owen Craigie

3 May 2017 - 12:23 PM  UPDATED 3 May 2017 - 12:23 PM

I think this Friday's rugby league Test will be a high-intensity game. 

I’m looking forward to Andrew Fifta being back in the Test squad after being out a little while. I’m looking forward to seeing if Johnathan Thurston will play and can carry that injury that he’s got, and if there’s any player in the world that can play at 75 or 80 per cent, that’s JT.

Everyone will tell you one of the greatest things to do is represent your country. And I think it’s still up at the pinnacle: playing for your country and win a grand final. But at the same time, when Origin comes around, it’s mate versus mate, state versus state. I think Origin is also up there as one of the pinnacles of playing representative football. But there’s no higher accolade, I think, than actually representing your country.

I think once you wear the green and gold and you’re playing alongside your mates and you’re representing your country, wanting to go out there and play some good footy - it’s exciting that you can play with a group of elite athletes.

I think at the same time too, once you wear the green and gold and you listen to the anthem and the anthem starts before the game, I think it gives you goosebumps. It makes you feel like you’re really representing your country at the highest level.

But with all of these players swapping which country they'll represent in these international games, I think it’s opened the floodgates, it really has.

Because if you look at the Australian team, you’ve got some New Zealand-born players in our Australian team. I suppose every team’s got people that could play for two or three different countries. But the one thing that really dumbfounds me is the fact that if all these other countries can have so many teams and so many people who can play with dual citizenships, then why can’t we put in an Aboriginal team to represent our country in the World Cup?

And I know if they’re picking an Australian Aboriginal team, an Indigenous team to play in the World Cup or an international competition, they’ll go close to winning it.

If you look at New Zealand, they’ve got the New Zealand team, the Kiwis team, then you’ve got your New Zealand Maori team.

And you’ve got Samoa, you’ve got Tonga.

But for some reason here in Australia, we’ve just got the Australian team. And I’m not saying that you’d have Thurston and Sam Thaiday and them blokes to come back and play with the Aboriginal team, but if they’re gonna have Samoa play Tonga and England play Fiji, well why can’t they put in an Australian Aboriginal team to play in this competition as well?

That should be taken into the World Cup or at least play in the international competition.

JT and the Australian players can stay with Australia and play, because we’ve got players there like Ash Taylor and James Roberts and these blokes that can fill those gaps. They’re all great players in their own right. 

And I know if they’re picking an Australian Aboriginal team, an Indigenous team to play in the World Cup or an international competition, they’ll go close to winning it. 

I remember when I was coached by the great Artie Beetson and I played in the 1988 Australian Aboriginal side, Artie Beetson had a concept, he said: “Why don’t we get the Australian Kangaroos playing the Australian Indigenous team, and call it the Reconciliation Cup?"

Because all these other countries have so many rights to playing in all these competitions, but the best players in the world are our Indigenous boys.

I think the Indigenous All-Stars at the start of each season is great because it just goes to show the stars of the future, and some young players that people have never seen before, that get an opportunity to really shine in front of a national and international audience.

The concept’s a great way to start the season in February. It’s only going to grow bigger and bigger and it’s a great way early in the season to see who the next superstars are going to be.

I said last week City-Country's lost its relevance. I’ll watch it on Sunday just to see what sort of atmosphere there is and how the players perform. I know that Paul Gallen’s playing for City and I know some other big name players are playing for Country there, but I'm more interested in the way blokes are going to put in and perform. Because the Australian team’s already picked. The Origin team’s just about picked. You look at James Tedesco and he's not playing, because he’s in the Origin team.

It comes back to are you willing to risk your team to go out and play in Mudgee for 80 minutes of footy in front of a few thousand people and get injured and then it just chops your season down? You’re not going to have the opportunity then to really go out there and give yourself every opportunity to win the competition. 

Rugby league’s a business, it’s not just a game anymore. Coaches need to win to keep their own jobs. Clubs need to win to keep the sponsors happy and if your good players are injured and not out there, then that’s not going to happen.

And the quality on the weekend was great. The two wingers from the Melbourne Storm, they’ve caught my eye.

I just think that if you’re gonna talk about winning cultures and personal development in the game of rugby league, well Josh Addo-Carr comes from the Wests Tigers, who they didn’t really want and now he's the best winger in the comp.

So it just goes to show that money’s not always everything. It’s all about the timing and being involved in a club that has a great culture like the Melbourne Storm.

Hear more from Owen Craigie on Over the Black Dot, Wednesday at 9.30pm on NITV Ch. 34