Matt Pritchard previews the Indigenous vs Maori All Stars game to be played at CBUS Stadium on Saturday night.
The ninth National Rugby League All Stars game will be played for the fifth time at CBUS Stadium between the Indigenous and Maori All Stars.
When these two sides met at AAMI Park last year, it was the Indigenous side that proved too strong in winning three of the four quarters to run out 34-14 winners.
Most pundits are predicting the Indigenous All Stars to take out the contest and it’s not hard to see why. A blistering backline with Latrell Mitchell, Blake Ferguson, James Roberts and the Fox, Josh Addo-Carr. They appear to have too much speed for the likes of Esan Masters and 34-year old Bryson Goodwin, returning to the National Rugby League after two seasons with Super League club Warrington Wolves.
With the game being so early in the season, expect for the forward packs to balance each other out. The Indigenous side have some heavy men in David Fifita and Joel Thompson who can provide go forward. Josh Kerr could be the surprise packet in the pack after a good season with the Red V. Versatility with Briton Nikora and Corey Harawira-Naera in the Maori side will come in handy towards the back end of the game when the Indigenous side start to tire.
A warm day with showers are expected on the Gold Coast on Saturday.
Indigenous All Stars
Joel Thompson will lead the Indigenous side. It was a tough off-season for the Sea Eagle after a misadventure resulted in head injuries. Thompson saying that he was lucky to be alive after the incident. A knee injury to Cody Walker results in Raiders star Jack Wighton playing at five-eighth.
Indigenous All Stars: Latrell Mitchell, Blake Ferguson, James Roberts, Jesse Ramien, Josh Addo-Carr, Jack Wighton, Tyrone Roberts, Josh Kerr, Nathan Peats, Jamayne Taunoa-Brown, Joel Thompson, Wade Graham, David Fifita, Connor Watson, Chris Smith, Zac Saddler, Josh Curran, Alex Johnston, Tyrone Peachey, Tyrell Fuimaono.
Maori All Stars
Some excellent experience in this Maori squad to be co-captained by Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Adam Blair. Kalyn Ponga switches to fullback after Peta Hiku played that role in 2019. Kodi Nikorima will partner Jahrome Hughes in the halves. Cronulla’s Briton Nikora makes his debut for the Maori side.
Maori All Stars squad: Kalyn Ponga, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Esan Marsters, Dylan Walker, Bryson Goodwin, Kodi Nikorima, Jahrome Hughes, Jesse Bromwich, Brandon Smith, Jordan Riki, Kenneath Bromwich, Briton Nikora, Corey Harawira-Naera, Issac Luke, Brad Takairangi, Zane Tetevano, Adam Blair, Kevin Proctor, Malakai Watene Zelezniak, Pasami Saulo.
Making his debut for the Indigenous side last year, Josh Addo-Carr scored two tries in their 34-14 win at AAMI Park. On-field for just 34 minutes, Addo-Carr made two line-breaks and ran for 110 metres. It’s likely to be a tough night for DWZ and Esan Marsters against one of the quickest players in the game.
BATTLE TO WATCH
Kalyn Ponga vs Latrell Mitchell
Latrell Mitchell hit the headlines during the off-season with his transfer from Bondi to Redfern. There’s been debate about whether Mitchell will be able to complete the move from playing in the centres to fullback, and still produce his best. Kalyn Ponga all too well knows the feeling of moving positions. His move to five-eighth lasted three rounds last year at the Knights before he returned to fullback and produced some excellent performances. Nonetheless, two stars go head-to-head in what will be an intriguing battle.
Date: Saturday February 22, 2020
Venue: CBUS Stadium
Kick-off: 7:10pm (Brisbane)