NRL All Stars match lives up to its billing

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    The intensity in Saturday night’s NRL All Stars game proves that it has its place on the rugby league calendar. The haters will tell you that the injury to Greg Inglis is enough proof that the game should be axed – which is total rubbish.

    Played at a cracking pace, the 2012 version of the NRL All Stars game had it all.

    Like caged animals hungry for blood, the players were finally released from the torment of pre-season training and given 80 minutes to blow away the cobwebs. They did that and than some to produce an enthralling game of footy.

    Doubters of the concept will tell you that the game should be abandoned. That NRL trial matches are good enough and the top players shouldn’t play any footy prior to round one at all.

    The problem with this is that footy players need time on the field. The injury to Inglis in the final minutes of the clash at Skilled Park is a travesty for South Sydney Rabbitohs fans. But that’s just bad luck. That injury could have happened anywhere.

    New Zealand Warriors prop Jacob Lillyman will miss the start of the season after hurting himself in a trial Saturday night against the Gold Coast Titans. Injuries just happen.

    NRL All Stars coach Wayne Bennett knew the Indigenous side would come out firing.

    “I think the Indigenous team really came at us hard at the beginning there. Lots of passion and emotion was running through them” Bennett said.

    “Thank God it ran out in the end and it gave us a chance to get back in the game.

    “It was just starting to run out at halftime and starting to wane a little bit. We picked our (intensity) up in the second half and they’d fired all their bullets.”

    The match exploded early with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Sam Thaiday (surprise surprise) almost coming to blows.

    Waerea-Hargreaves was involved again after a lengthy break down the western side of the field from the Indigenous. The Roosters enforcer came over the top of Ben Barba who was already into touch. The fire inside the players was evident.

    The altering of a number of rules saw the game played at a frenetic pace. With the referees restarting the tackle count instead of blowing a penalty, players were out on their feet.

    The players themselves will tell you that the hit out done just as much as any training could have done.

    Waerea-Hargreaves knows exactly what the game means.

    “It was pretty intense out there. There wasn’t many words said – I just stood my ground” Waerea-Hargreaves said.

    “They’re playing for their culture and good on them.”

    That’s the whole point. This is a celebration of the Indigenous people. This is their night and anyone that still doesn’t believe in the annual clash are in denial.

    Veteran back rower Nathan Hindmarsh turned the clock back with a strong performance in both attack and defence while Jamal Idris and Nathan Merritt were impressive for the Indigenous.

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