The NRL All Star match has always been an interesting concept. However, in the game’s short history the finished product has missed the mark.
When the NRL announced that the 2016 edition will be played between an Indigenous team and a World XIII, it was an admission that the current format wasn’t working. The public was becoming less interested.
The biggest problem with the previous model was that the game pitted an Indigenous side up against an NRL All Star side which was often lacking in cultural diversity. Having one team full of Indigenous talent and one consisting of non-Indigenous Australians and a few Kiwis meant that rather that uniting the different cultures, it appeared divisive.
While the new format looks to embrace more cultures with the now named World XIII having new selection criteria, it doesn’t quite hit the mark.
However, the new selection criteria for the World XIII is a step in the right direction. With Australia, New Zealand and England only having four slots on the team each, the door has opened up for players in less renowned rugby league nations.
Although the new format endorses cultural diversity within the World XIII, the Indigenous players are still separated from the rest of the players by race. A segregation policy isn’t the way to celebrate Indigenous rugby league.
An alternative solution would be to have two Indigenous captains who would pick a team each consisting of players from around the globe. The players would be able to share their heritage, regardless of where it is from, to the team and the rugby league community.
Having both teams consisting of players of Indigenous, Maori, Anglo-Saxon, Lebanese, Papa New Guinean or any other background will allow a celebration of the different cultures and, in particular, Indigenous players that are united by rugby league.