The NRL All Stars match is a pre-season rugby league exhibition match pitting the Indigenous All Stars up against the NRL All Stars. Brain child of former Indigenous great Preston Campbell, the match features some of the best names in the game, not only from Indigenous backgrounds, but from all cultures.
First taking place in 2010 at Skilled Park, now known as Cbus Super Stadium, on the Gold Coast, it has become a must-see event for rugby league diehards across the country. It is the one rugby league game in Australia where the fans pick the teams. Generally, fans pick the Indigenous All Stars first, consisting of six forwards, seven backs and seven wildcards. The forwards and backs will predominantly be the run on squad, while the wildcards make up the bench. The exhibition game has evolved since its inception, with the match trophy named the Arthur Beetson trophy in 2012, in honour of the first Indigenous athlete to ever captain an Australian sporting team, Arthur Beetson. Affectionately known as Artie, Beetson was a rugby league legend, loved by many.
This game puts some of the NRL’s biggest stars side-by-side, and for some, for the first time ever. In the NRL All Stars team, the captains of both the Australian Rugby League team and the New Zealand Rugby League team are automatically picked, getting a rare chance to play alongside each other. In the past, former New Zealand captain Benji Marshall has been partnered in the halves by Australian captain Darren Lockyer, a partnership that would not have taken place in any other professional rugby league game. Then in 2013, Manly five-eighth Kieran Foran came off the bench to partner Rabbitohs halfback Adam Reynolds in the halves; again, a partnership that more than likely won’t occur at any level.
Big G.I is no stranger to big occasions or big performances. This will be his 4th appearance in a row for the Indigenous All Stars after being in the squad for the 2 games prior but didn’t take part due to injury. He scored a try in the 2012 and 2015 addition and is the ace in the pack for the team this year – expect a huge performance from the captain.
Cameron Smith returns to the NRL/World All Stars team after missing the game for the first time last year and will captain the side this year. He’s yet to cross for a try in the games but did take a few shots at goal a few years back. His leadership will be key in ensuring the team gels after such little time preparing together.
This will be James’ first appearance for the Indigenous All Stars, coming off a great season with the Titans that included 16 tries. Now that he has moved up the M1 to Brisbane he won’t have to travel far for this game and will be looking to put on a show at his new home ground.
Reynolds’ only appearance in the All Stars game to date came in 2013 when he partnered Benji Marshall in the halves in a 32-6 loss. He did convert Jarryd Hayne’s try on the night and will hope to get his first victory as an All Star this weekend.
After being named in the Indigenous Team of the Century in 2008, Big Sammy Thaiday has played in 2 All Star games and has made the squad a further 2 times but didn’t play due to injury. He has never crossed for a try in the games but this will be his first at Suncorp Stadium so expect him to turn it on.
This is Semi’s first appearance at an All Stars game and is on the back of a huge 2015 season in which he was one of the league’s premium point scorers, crossing 24 times in 18 games for the Eels. Can he carry that form over with possibly even better players around him? We wouldn’t put it past him.
|2017||INDIGENOUS ALL STARS||WORLD ALL STARS||34-8|
|2016||WORLD ALL STARS||INDIGENOUS ALL STARS||12-8|
|2015||INDIGENOUS ALL STARS||NRL ALL STARS||20-6|
|2013||INDIGENOUS ALL STARS||NRL ALL STARS||32-6|
|2012||NRL ALL STARS||INDIGENOUS ALL STARS||39-28|
|2011||NRL ALL STARS||INDIGENOUS ALL STARS||28-12|
|2010||INDIGENOUS ALL STARS||NRL ALL STARS||16-12|
*Was not played in 2014 to accommodate for the Auckland Nines tournament.
Like in every major game in the NRL, a man of the match award is given. In the Grand Final, it is known as the Clive Churchill Medal. In State of Origin, it is the Wally Lewis Medal. In the NRL All Stars match, the best player on the field receives the Preston Campbell Medal.
|2017||JOHNATHAN THURSTON||INDIGENOUS ALL STARS|
|2016||JAMES GRAHAM||WORLD ALL STARS|
|2015||GEORGE ROSE||INDIGENOUS ALL STARS||FRONT ROW|
|2013||BEN BARBA||INDIGENOUS ALL STARS||FULLBACK|
|2012||NATHAN MERRITT||INDIGENOUS ALL STARS||WING|
|2011||JOSH DUGAN||NRL ALL STARS||FULLBACK|
|2010||JOHNATHAN THURSTON||INDIGENOUS ALL STARS||HALFBACK|