In what will be the first major Rugby League match in Australia for 2017, the All Stars week is one of the most anticipated events on the NRL Calendar and with star studded line ups it’s easy to see why.
At Rugby League HQ today, Indigenous All Stars Coach Laurie Daley named a formidable team packed with experience in Greg Inglis, Johnathan Thurston and Sam Thaiday. He also named 4 debutants in Ashley Taylor, Latrell Mitchell, Adam Elliot and Jack Bird.
St George Dragons second rower Joel Thompson is no stranger to the side and said being selected for the squad is an honour.
“We’ll all come in (to camp) we’re all pretty tight we’ll train hard, work hard and make sure it’s right come the Friday night” he said.
While there are many important games on the NRL calendar, Daley said there’s something extra special about the Indigenous All Stars week.
“A lot of these guys who have played for the All Stars over the years are proud of who they’re playing for and they play for the jersey they wear.”
Newly appointed World All Stars coach Mal Meninga has overlooked some of the NRL’s biggest names for fear of play burn out as the Rugby League World Cup is also scheduled for next year.
Mengina, who recently took over the reigns from Wayne Bennet and returned from the successful Four Nations tour, said those players need rest.
"They've played a lot of footy so we made sure that anyone who was involved in the Four Nations - for Australia, England, New Zealand or Scotland - we wouldn't be making them play. They needed a spell," Meninga said.
Despite the omissions, the South Sea Islander coach still picked a team worthy of rattling the cage of the Indigenous side. The likes of Jarryd Hayne, Jake Trbojevic, Joseph Leilua, Mitchell Moses and Bryce Cartright have proved they’re all dangerous with the ball.
Thrilling match ups
The battle of the halves will be one to watch as up and comer Ashley Taylor pairs with Johnathon Thurston to face off against young gun Mitchell Moses and Adam Reynolds.
Ryan James and Andrew Fifita will meet Nate Myles and Jordan McLean to fight for dominance in the middle and the Indigenous All Stars back line rivals an international side as five of the seven players selected for the squad have Origin experience.
Radradra overlooked selection
Mal Meninga said Semi Radradra was not considered for the squad because he is awaiting a court hearing to answer domestic violence charges. The Parramatta winger was not considered for the Four Nations because his charges were still before the court.
"Semi is still going through his ordeal, it's taken out of our hands," Meninga said.
Women’s team to be announced in new year
Another highlight of the All Stars weekend is the women’s sides. Indigenous Nakia Davis-Welsh and Sam Brenmer were at today’s announcement but their respective teams won’t be announced until the New Year.
The NRL Indigenous women’s side will take on the women’s All Star side as a curtain raiser for the men’s game, on February 10 2017.
MEET THE TEAMS
Indigenous All Stars
- Jack Wighton (Canberra Raiders)
- Blake Ferguson (Sydney Roosters)
- Greg Inglis (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
- Will Chambers (Melbourne Storm)
- Dane Gagai (Newcastle Knights)
- Johnathan Thurston (North Queensland Cowboys)
- Ash Taylor* (Gold Coast Titans)
- Ryan James (Gold Coast Titans)
- Nathan Peats (Gold Coast Titans)
- Andrew Fifita (Cronulla Sharks)
- Joel Thompson (St George Illawarra Dragons)
- Wade Graham (Cronulla Sharks)
- Sam Thaiday (Brisbane Broncos)
- Tyrone Peachey (Penrith Panthers)
- Jack Bird* (Cronulla Sharks)
- Leilani Latu (Penrith Panthers)
- Latrell Mitchell* (Sydney Roosters)
- Aidan Sezer (Canberra Raiders)
- Kyle Turner (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
- Adam Elliott* (Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs)
World All Stars (made up of players representing their Heritage)
- Jarryd Hayne* (Gold Coast Titans) – Fijian Heritage
- David Mead* (Brisbane Broncos) – PNG Heritage
- Joseph Leilua* (Canberra Raiders) – Samoan Heritage
- Konrad Hurrell (Gold Coast Titans) – Tongan Heritage
- Nene Macdonald (St George Illawarra Dragons) – PNG Heritage
- Mitchell Moses* (Wests Tigers) – Lebanese Heritage
- Adam Reynolds (South Sydney Rabbitohs) – Australian Heritage
- Nate Myles* (Manly Warringah Sea Eagles) – Australian Heritage
- Jake Friend* (Sydney Roosters) – Australian Heritage
- Jordan McLean* (Melbourne Storm) – Australian Heritage
- Gavin Cooper* (North Queensland Cowboys) – Australian Heritage
- Bryce Cartwright* (Penrith Panthers) – Australian Heritage
- Jake Trbojevic* (Manly Warringah Sea Eagles) – Serbian Heritage
- Reagan Campbell-Gillard* (Penrith Panthers) – Fijian Heritage
- Sosaia Feki* (Cronulla Sharks) – Tongan Heritage
- Sione Mata’utia* (Newcastle Knights) – Samoan Heritage
- Sam Lisone* (New Zealand Warriors) – NZ Heritage
- Moses Mbye* (Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs) – African Heritage
- Tepai Moeroa* (Parramatta Eels) – Cook Islands Heritage
- Jordan Turner* (Canberra Raiders) – English Heritage
* Denotes debut World All Stars players (NB, some players may have played in previous All Stars teams, prior to the new World All Stars team introduction in 2016)