The opening round of the 2019 NRL finals was dominated by touches. Well, two and a half touch-ups and one touch judge controversy, to be precise.
The usual All Star fixture for the NRL is back next year, with a little twist. Instead of an All Star based team playing the Indigenous team, the former have been replaced with the ‘Maori’ All Star team.
As a Maori league lover I didn’t really take too much interest into the concept when first announced.
From first thought, I just assumed the Maoris would lack any depth to compete against the heavily favoured Indigenous squad. The Indigenous essentially boast the most lethal backs to select from, including Greg Inglis, Latrell Mitchell, Josh Addo-Carr, James Roberts, Blake Ferguson – the list goes on…
Once I gave the Maori team deeper thought, I essentially came up with a team and thought ‘Wow, this team could do some real damage’.
I looked deeply into my research to make sure the team I selected all had some form of Maori heritage within them and I’m fairly positive I have achieved that.
This is solely based on their heritage alone – given it’s a pre season fixture, a fair few may make themselves unavailable for the game.
That all being said, if I could field the absolute best of the Maori team next February, this is who I would field in my Top 17.
1. Valentine Holmes – in a field mixed full of really good fullback options, he just stands out that much more.
2. Dallin Watene Zelezniak – the current Kiwi captain has been in scintillating form. An absolute must for the Maoris.
3. Dane Gagai – previously already represented the Indigenous side as he hails from both backgrounds, but with the resurgence of Ferguson, Latrell and Addo-Carr since the last All-Star game, I dare say the outside back options for the Indigenous side are quite crowded.
Gagai has also said he’d love to represent his Maori side. What better time than now?
4. Joseph Manu – the best centre in the world, currently. The closest option? His opposing number and team mate – Latrell Mitchell.
5. Jordan Rapana – speaks for itself, this selection. An absolute freak, a workhorse of a winger.
6. Kalyn Ponga – he may have passed up the chances to pick the Kiwis for the Kangaroos, but this is his chance to represent his culture, which is something very near and dear to his heart.
7. Nathan Cleary – Would he decide to play for a side he never really acknowledges? He would be a great addition.
8. Jesse Bromwich – No real argument here. Will be the packs leader, for sure.
9. Issac Luke – Just clips Brandon Smith for this role. Will essentially lead the haka, also.
10. Jordan McLean – sounds as Australian as the next farmer, but McLean has Maori heritage. This would be his only chance to showcase it, and he’d be able to share it with a few former Storm teammates.
11. Kevin Proctor – a stalwart for the Kiwis, the Te Kuiti product is a must for the right edge.
12. Tohu Harris – remember when I said McLean would have a few former team mates? Here’s another. Will slot in perfect back to his original left edge side.
13. Adam Blair – the spirit leader of the pack. Will fight hard to lead the Haka with Luke.
14. Brandon Smith – the pocket rocket. Having taken over Luke’s role for the Kiwis, I see him as a perfect option for utility for this particular side.
15. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves – will provide great spark, impact and leadership off the bench. A must have.
16. Joseph Tapine – will provide some serious grunt and always plays above his size.
17. James Fisher Harris – this spot was a tough one with at least two other forwards really contesting. This spot given to him purely on form.
Unlucky omissions (Russell Packer and James Tamou).
As I said previously, this is the absolute best they could pick from. Whether some of the questionable picks (Ponga, Cleary and Gagai) offer themselves up for selection, will be a mystery – but if I could pick the best – this is who I’d select.
I know that the Indigenous team will be as stacked and star-studded as ever – but if we want to make this a competitive fixture, let’s pick the best we have.
Come on boys, make yourselves available and let’s do it!