Bennett backs All Stars to shine
THE lead-up to tonight's All Stars clash may have been hijacked by player withdrawals and concern about slow ticket sales, but NRL All Stars coach Wayne Bennett says his team will give 100%.
"These guys don't want to embarrass themselves out there, so they'll be on their game and they'll be going the best they can," Bennett said.
The Indigenous All Stars have been hit hardest by players making themselves unavailable, particularly among the forwards.
Starting props George Rose and Ryan James will have to shoulder much of the workload following the withdrawal of a host of forwards, including Kangaroos Sam Thaiday and Greg Bird.
The NRL All Stars, on the other hand, have plenty of representative experience in their pack - starting forwards James Graham, Michael Ennis, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Scott, Jason Taumalolo and Paul Gallen are all internationals. If the Indigenous forwards can somehow manage to hold their own, the backs, led by superstars Greg Inglis and Johnathan Thurston, could certainly inflict some damage on the scoreboard.
Indigenous All Stars coach Laurie Daley said the understanding that players like Inglis and Thurston had created through their Origin success for Queensland had led to him adopting a relaxed approach to the game.
"JT and GI are pretty experienced - they know what they want and they know how to play the game," he said.
The NRL All Stars may not have the same level of understanding, with many of the players meeting for the first time this week, but captain Beau Scott said the skill level at training suggested that would not be an issue tonight.
"It (the week of training) has been really good. There are a bunch of guys that have never met before and we've been really crisp at training," he said.
"There aren't too many nerves - there's an unlimited interchange so we'll use that."
Meanwhile, Thurston said the talk about poor ticket sales and bad off-field behaviour at South Sydney and dwindling interest in rugby league on the Gold Coast was insignificant when compared to the impact the week had on the life of Indigenous school children brought to the Coast for the lead-up activities.
"Some of the students coming through, hopefully this has made an impact on their lives," Thurston said.
"When they come to these types of events they're going back to their own communities to make a difference."
Indigenous All Stars: Inglis, Johnston, Chambers, Hodges, J Hoffman, Barba, Thurston (c), Rose, R Thompson, James, T Peachey, Turner, Grevsmuhl. Inter: T Roberts, D Fifita, D Gagai, Andrews, Wighton, Moseley, Tighe.
NRL All Stars: Moylan, Vatuvei, Croker, Walker, Winterstein, Foran, Pearce, Graham, N Friend, Waerea-Hargreaves, Scott (c), Taumalolo, Gallen. Inter: J Bromwich, Brooks, J Paulo, Merrin, Parker, J Smith, Taylor.