Can the All-Stars game become more than a gimmick?
Today saw the announcement of the NRL and Indigenous All-Star teams for the annual All-Star clash, this year to be held at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.
The All-Stars concept was created from the mind of proud Indigenous player and former Dally M winner Preston Campbell, and nobody could doubt what he is trying to achieve.
A game that gives Indigenous rugby players the opportunity to play for their people and promote pride within the community in itself is a fantastic concept. However, more could be done to make this a serious fixture.
The All-Stars game has so much potential to be something truly special, but with the way it is currently run, is it anything more than a pre-season exhibition match?
If the NRL are happy to keep the All-Stars match as is then there is no need to change anything.
However, if this is to turn into a serious representative fixture that players strive to play in, and want to win, then a few changes must be made.
Pick the best vs the best
The All-Stars concept is based on the idea of the best Indigenous players in the NRL coming up against the best non-Indigenous players. On paper this sounds great, however the fact that the NRL All-Stars team requires only one player from each club means that the ‘best’ factor is lost.
Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater are undoubtedly the best players in their positions in the world, but the fact that they can’t be selected in the same starting line up of a supposed rep team makes the All-Stars a bit of a gimmick already.
The best players available to represent each team must be picked, regardless of which club they play for.
This also means that fans picking the team would also have to go. Each team’s coach and his assistants should be in charge of picking the best players to play for their teams if this is to become a true representative fixture.
Having the fans pick a side is a great idea to help promote a match, but rep teams should be picked on playing ability rather than popularity, otherwise Nathan Hindmarsh would be getting picked 4 years into his retirement.
Scrap the trial rules
I am all for trying to improve rugby league with new rules that will make the game faster and more of a spectacle, but trialing rules should be left to trial games, not important representative fixtures.
Having rules such as the power play be trialed as a one off turns the All-Stars match into an exhibition, when it could be so much more.
Personally I think the All-Stars game is a brilliant concept, but a few tweaks could see the worth of these jerseys for the players move towards that of an Origin or Test cap.
Passion for the jersey is what the fans want to see, which surely will bring us an entertaining, must-see game of rugby league.
No doubt the Indigenous All-Stars would feel this pride and passion, but if we truly had the best NRL All-Stars team out there, they might feel the same.