Match Preview: Indigenous All Stars vs. Māori All Stars

After a one-year hiatus, a revamped NRL Harvey Norman All Stars fixture is back on the calendar with the New Zealand Māori to take on the Indigenous All Stars for the first time.

The move is a positive one with the Māori to present a welcome – and no doubt passionate – addition to the fixture.

Both teams will boast some huge names as well as some scintillating young talent.

While the Indigenous side will be without the likes of Ryan James and Greg Inglis (both knee), and Ben Barba (deregistered) and the Māori team has lost Jordan McLean (Townsville floods), their absences present opportunities to other players.

Premiership-winner Latrell Mitchell has foregone a trip to the UK for the World Club Challenge in order to represent his culture along with Origin reps including Andrew Fifita, Blake Ferguson, James Roberts, Josh Addo-Carr, Tyrone Peachey and Nathan Peats. Young stars including Jesse Ramien, Kotoni Staggs and highly-rated Brisbane forward David Fifita make their first appearance for the Indigenous side.

They won’t have an easy time of it against a Māori side boasting a stack of Test talent including Jesse and Kenny Bromwich, Dane Gagai, Peta Hiku, Adam Blair, Tohu Harris, Kevin Proctor, James Tamou and Dean Whare.

What you need to know

Key match-up

Cody Walker & Tyrone Roberts v Kalyn Ponga & Jahrome Hughes: The two halves pairings in this match have boundless ability. For the Indigenous side, Walker and Roberts bring plenty of experience, calm heads and, in Roberts, the most developed kicking game from either team.

Match: Indigenous v Maori


ROUND 1 - FRIDAY 15TH FEBRUARY
8:00pm
Indigenous
Home Team
Indigenous
Maori
Away Team
Maori

Venue:AAMI Park

Match broadcasters:

  • Nine Network
  • Fox League
  • LIVE PASS

BUY TICKETS

While Walker is one of the code’s most dangerous running halves the Māori team still has the edge in this department with Ponga and Hughes both still better-recognised as dangerous running fullbacks despite each spending time in the halves last season.

With the squads having so little time to gel there is a chance the game plan goes out the window – which would play into the Māori pair’s hands – but any extra control and polish Roberts and Walker can add could well prove the difference in even an unstructured contest.

For the Indigenous All Stars to win

The injury to Ryan James leaves the Indigenous squad a little light on for props. They have one of the most dangerous big men on the planet in Andrew Fifita but for the Indigenous side to triumph, he will need some good support from the likes of promising but uncapped rookie Kerr and journeymen Leilani Latu and Chris Smith to match it with a powerful Māori pack that has five middle forwards with Test experience in the squad.

For the Māori All Stars to win

You can all but guarantee that potent pack will create some attacking sets for the Māori side. While none of their playmakers (which also includes fullback Peta Hiku and hooker Brandon Smith) is playing out of position as such, each is playing in a jersey number which has not been their regular one at NRL level. The question is whether something of a makeshift spine can come together in time to create enough point-scoring opportunities to win the match – if they can do that they’ll go a long way towards claiming the trophy.

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2017 highlights: Indigenous All Stars v World All Stars

Indigenous Stat Attack

Players from the Indigenous squad were near the top of some significant stats in the Telstra Premiership last season. Winger Blake Ferguson finished best for total and average metres with 4862 at 203 per game. Andrew Fifita’s 70 offloads were the second-best of all players while his 105 busts were the second-most of any forward.

When it comes to line breaks, Ferguson (19), Walker (18), Mitchell (17) and Addo-Carr (16) were all in the top 10 of the competition. There’s no doubt this squad contains some of the most dangerous ball-runners in the game right now.

Māori Stat Attack

The weight of Test experience in favour of the Māori side is startling. In total the Indigenous squad has 33 Test caps shared among five players. The Māori team has a whopping 223 Test caps among 17 players. In fact, from the entire squad only the two halves and Corey Harawira-Naera are yet to represent their nation in a Test and even then it’s probably just a matter of time.

These numbers include starts for Tier 2 nations but the gulf only gets wider if you trim it to just Tier 1 caps – the Indigenous squad have nine Tongan caps between Fifita and Latu while the Māori team have four Cook Islands jerseys between Brad Takairangi and Esan Marsters. The remaining 219 Test starts for the Māori side are all for Australia (Dane Gagai and James Tamou) and New Zealand. Adam Blair’s 47 Kiwi Test caps outnumber the entire Indigenous squad’s Test experience.

And another thing

Maroons and Kangaroos back Dane Gagai is one of a handful of players in the NRL to qualify for both teams and this year becomes the first player to represent both the Indigenous and Māori All Stars. Gagai’s cousin and one-time Indigenous All Star Josh Hoffman could potentially become another in future

Televised

Live on Nine, Fox League

Indigenous All Stars

Bevan French (Eels); Blake Ferguson (Eels), James Roberts (Broncos), Latrell Mitchell (Roosters), Josh Addo-Carr (Storm); Cody Walker (Rabbitohs), Tyrone Roberts (Titans); Andrew Fifita (Sharks), Nathan Peats (Titans), Josh Kerr (Dragons), David Fifita (Broncos), Adam Elliott (Bulldogs), Tyrone Peachey (Titans). Interchange: Will Chambers (Storm), Leilani Latu (Titans), Chris Smith (Bulldogs), Alex Johnston (Rabbitohs), Jesse Ramien (Knights), Tyrell Fuimaono (Panthers), Kotoni Staggs (Broncos).

New Zealand Māori All Stars

Peta Hiku (Warriors); Dane Gagai (Rabbitohs), Esan Marsters (Wests Tigers), Dean Whare (Panthers), Jordan Kahu (Broncos); Kalyn Ponga (Knights), Jahrome Hughes (Storm); Jesse Bromwich (Storm), Brandon Smith (Storm), James Tamou (Panthers), Kevin Proctor (Titans), Tohu Harris (Warriors), Adam Blair (captain - Warriors). Interchange: Danny Levi (Knights), Brad Takairangi (Eels), James Fisher-Harris (Panthers), Gerard Beale (Warriors), Corey Harawira-Naera (Bulldogs), Joseph Tapine (Raiders), Kenny Bromwich (Cowboys)

To purchase tickets, head to www.nrl.com/tickets

For flights, accommodation and tickets to visit Melbourne and attend the matches, head to www.nrl.com/travel

Rather watch the 9’s tournament than this

Even better lets have two trials per club , move them to the regional areas

Maybe if the top names were involved , bring back a few recent retirees , but nah

@IWasBornATiger:

remiership-winner Latrell Mitchell has foregone a t

I think it’s a good thing and previous posters are poo-pooing it. If either of you happy or Steve are indigenous Aussie or Kiwi then certainly interested in your comments, but if you are Caucasian like me, then I think you miss the point of why this game is being played.

It could legitimately become something like Tonga vs Samoa, which 10 years ago was nothing and had limited meaning or consistency, and now is a big deal for Tongans and Samoans.

Looking forward to watching a game of footy…No injuries please…

On the Maoris …Marsters for a triple double braaaaaah

The real footy starts on march 2 🐯

Think this is a compromise.

The all stars concept presented a problem in that clubs had to risk their biggest names (Tedesco, Cronk, Smith, Burgess) or find a dodgy injury to pull them out which diminished the marketing.

No you have a load of players that are ineligible for this game, but the game can still be marketed.

Like others I would prefer a 7’s or 9’s tournament where there are bragging rights and prize money on offer for clubs, and fans can support their team.

Masters playing on the left and will up against Roberts.

Its a good concept and could become a solid fixture in the calendar. I’ll be watching to run my eye over some Super Coach talent more than anything however lol

Looking forward to this game. Not normally a fan, but I think the Maoris will be a bit more motivated than the Honkies.

Henry Marinara in bunker for women’s match. Does that mean he’s retired from on field refing?? If so we start the season with +4 points I reckon

Maori winger went touch in goal as her hair went out as she was trying to score

@Tiger_Steve:

Henry Marinara in bunker for women’s match. Does that mean he’s retired from on field refing?? If so we start the season with +4 points I reckon

Zero interest….?

Damn - got me!😜

On a technicality I did say zero interest in men’s game!!

He’s out the first 6 rounds

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