Anyone can contribute to The Roar and have their work featured alongside some of Australia’s most prominent sports journalists.
The Indigenous All-Stars and Maori All-Stars are back to open the 2021 rugby league season at Queensland Country Bank Stadium in North Queensland. Join The Roar for live scores and commentary from 8:10pm (AEDT).
It seems like just yesterday we said goodbye to the 2020 season, after Covid pushed the Telstra Premiership and State of Origin series into November. Now we are back, for hopefully a more stable and “Covid-Normal”, rugby league season that starts with the best Indigenous and Maori players of our game doing battle for the third time.
With the All-Stars concept undergoing a revamp in 2019, the ledger for this one sits one apiece. The Indigenous All-Stars claimed the first win in 2019 in Melbourne, running out 34-14 winners. Last season the Maori hit back on the Gold Coast, coming home with a wet sail to win 30-16, three tries in the last ten minutes.
As it did last year, Covid has affected this one, with seven Melbourne players forced to withdraw after being denied access to Queensland after the Victorian outbreak of the last week. Fan favourite Josh Addo-Carr can’t travel north for the Indigenous All-Stars, but the toll is far greater for the Maori side. The Bromwich brothers, Jahrome Hughes, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Brandon and Reimis Smith have are all out for the Maori.
This game will mark Latrell Mitchell’s return from injury after missing the end of last season for South Sydney, lining up at fullback for the Indigenous side. It will be a good indication of where he is at ahead of the NRL season, a year on from his first appearance in the number one jersey. The Indigenous side has plenty of attacking options in Blake Ferguson, Jack Wighton, Cody Walker and Alex Johnston. They have some variety in the forwards, with Tyrone Peachey and David Fifita dynamic forwards who should be primed for a big season. They may be a little light on for size though, with only two forwards on the bench, they are going to need big numbers from starters Andrew Fifita and Josh Kerr.
The Maori have done their best to cover their losses. They will be looking for a big game from their dynamic halves pairing in Jarome Luai and Benji Marshall. Two players in opposite phases of their career, Marshall in the twilight of his, while Luai is coming of the heights of grand final in his first full season for the Panthers. They need these two providing for the likes of Dylan Walker, Joey Manu and Dallin Watene-Zelzniak out wide, all talented individuals. Their forward pack is similarly dynamic, but with very little experience of the bench, they too will need big numbers from starting props Russell Packer and James Fisher-Harris.
This is such a positive way to start the season. This match is always full of colour and culture, with both sides happy to have some fun in the contest, but also compete hard in the name of their heritage. Both matches so far have been free-flowing and high scoring. It is shame that we aren’t seeing some of the biggest stars, with such a short turnaround between seasons, and border restrictions coming into play, but you can expect every player for these two sides to play with passion and pride.
The Indigenous side looks a bit stronger on paper, especially across their backline. The key for them will be a big game from Latrell Mitchell, and Cody Walker doing his thing against tiring forwards late in each half as the warm conditions generate fatigue. But the combination of Marshall and Luai for the Maori is a likeable one. If they can gel and control the game they will go a long way to winning this one. Luai had more try assists than Nathan Cleary last year, but also needs to use his footwork which can be so devastating. Marshall will be treating this very much like a swansong withe curtain coming down on his career.
This will be a closely run thing as both sides go at it in the first proper hit out for the year. I’ll tip the Indigenous side with no real confidence, getting home late.
Indigenous All-Stars by 4.
Join The Roar for live scores and commentary from 8:10pm (AEDT).
Kick-off: 8:10pm (AEDT)
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
TV: Nine, Fox League
Odds: Indigenous $1.50, Maori $2.50
Latrell Mitchell, Blake Ferguson, Jack Wighton, Jesse Ramien, Josh Addo-Carr, Cody Walker, Jamal Fogarty, Andrew Fifita, Reuben Cotter, Josh Kerr, David Fifita, Wade Graham, Tyrone Peachey, Alex Johnston, Jamayne Taunoa-Brown, Cade Cust, Chris Smith, Tyrell Fuimaono, Josh Curran, Brian Kelly
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Joseph Manu, Dylan Walker, Reimis Smith, Jarome Luai, Jahrome Hughes, Jesse Bromwich, Brandon Smith, James Fisher-Harris, Briton Nikora, Kenneath Bromwich, Joseph Tapine, Jeremy Marshall-King, Kevin Proctor, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Jordan Riki, Patrick Herbert, Bailey Simonsson, Benji Marshall