The season-opening All Stars clash will live up to its name again with a host of guns set to take part in Townsville, despite worries that many would pull out.
However, the Indigenous side is set to be without star Cody Walker, with the Rabbitoh star suffering a calf strain in the lead up to the clash.
The Indigenous side will still boast the likes of Latrell Mitchell, Nicho Haynes, and Josh Addo-Carr while the Maori team features Jahrome Hughes, Joseph Tapine and Brandon Smith.
There had been fears that the top clubs, notably those travelling to Las Vegas, might pull their players.
The Roosters had asked for an exemption but did not get one, though Joey Manu is conspicuous in his absence from the Maori squad.
Vegas-bound Souths have provided a large number of players, though Jack Wighton, a regular in the fixture, is unavailable due to suspension.
The news however of Walker’s strain will be of huge significance this close to the Vegas fixtures, with him now in a race against the clock to be fit for the seminal fixture.
Indigenous coach Ronnie Griffiths confirmed the news on Saturday afternoon.
“I spoke to him before I boarded a flight from Brisbane, he told me he did his calf and was out.
“It’s a massive blow for us and a massive blow for Cody because he’s a player who makes himself available every year.
“He loves the game and that passion and leadership exudes out of him when he plays.”
With Walker now out of the picture, this will lead to increased discussion as to who will captain the Indigenous All Stars side.
The Broncos also have inclusions, with Kotoni Staggs in the Indigenous team and Xavier Willison on the Maori side, though Ezra Mam has been scratched due to injury. Reece Walsh, who is eligible for both teams, was already confirmed to miss.
The only side to gain an exemption was the Panthers, who are set to travel to England to take on Wigan in the World Clup Challenge, meaning that current Golden Boot and last year’s Maori captain, James Fisher-Harris, will not be available.
Gold Coast Titans speedster Alofiana Khan-Pereira’s rapid rise has continued, after the 22-year old was named in the Indigenous line-up.
Khan-Pereira, who lit up the NRL with a club record 20 tries in his 2023 debut season, made his rep debut for the Prime Minister’s XIII last year, scoring a try in a comfortable victory over a PNG PM’s XIII.
The 22-year old will be joined in making his All Stars debut by Storm young gun Jack Howarth, who will feature for the Maori team after impressing enough to be signed to a five-year contract in 2022 before even making his NRL debut.
In the women’s All Stars, Tamika Upton, Taliah Fuimaono and Tallisha Harden are the big-name Indigenous selections to take on a Maori contingent headlined by Kennedy Cherrington, Corban Baxter and Raecene McGregor.
New Zealand hosted last year’s All Stars games, with Townsville last holding the event in 2021.
Men’s Indigenous All Stars: Josh Addo-Carr, Jacob Alick, Bailey Biondi-Odo, Bailey Butler, Josh Curran, Adam Elliott, Jordan Grant, J’maine Hopgood, Nicho Hynes, Josh Kerr, Alofiana Khan-Pereira, Latrell Mitchell, Shaquai Mitchell, Kierran Moseley, Hohepa Puru, Kotoni Staggs, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Isaiah Tass, Braydon Trindall.
Men’s Maori All Stars: Jessie Arthars, Kenny Bromwich, Dane Gagai, Jacob Gagai, Jack Howarth, Jahrome Hughes, Royce Hunt, Te Maire Martin, Trey Mooney, Briton Nikora, Kodi Nikorima, Adam Pompey, Joseph Tapine, Jazz Tevaga, Leo Thompson, Matthew Timoko, Brandon Smith, Dylan Walker, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Xavier Willison.
Women’s Indigenous All Stars: Shaylee Bent, Jaime Chapman, Kirra Dibb, Quincy Dodd, Monique Donovan, Taliah Fuimaono, Tallisha Harden, Kimberley Hunt, Keilee Joseph, Grace Kemp, Olivia Kernick, Bobbi Law, Mahalia Murphy, Jasmine Peters, Tommaya Kelly-Sines, Taneka Todhunter, Tamika Upton, Janelle Williams. Coach: Jess Skinner
Women’s Maori All Stars: Brooke Anderson, Corban Baxter, Annessa Biddle, Destiny Brill, Kennedy Cherrington, Zali Fay, Mya Hill-Moana, Shannon Mato, Kerehitina Matua, Raecene McGregor, Shanice Parker, Rima Pirini Butler, Ashleigh Quinlan, Tiana Raftstrand-Smith, Jasmin Strange, Chante Temara, Zahara Temara, Botille Vette-Welsh. Coach: Keith Hanley.