All Stars coach Wayne Bennett admitted today he found it "too difficult" to pick the NRL All Stars team for next month's clash with the Indigenous team and is happy to leave the selection process in the hands of rugby league fans.
Bennett was speaking exclusively on NRL.com today to help fans with Stage Two of the voting process, which involves picking 16 players - but only one player from each club - off a shortlist of 64 to join Darren Lockyer and Benji Marshall in the Harvey Norman All Stars match at Skilled Park, Gold Coast, on February 12.
"I tried to pick a team last week and I gave up half way through because it was getting too difficult," Bennett told fans on NRL.com. "I"ve purely left it up to you, and I'm looking forward to seeing the team you pick, and I hope we all do you proud on the field.
" ... I had to pick a team the other day and had trouble with the centers myself. Players like Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Josh Morris, Chris Lawrence, they would all have to come into the mix."
Fans have until 11:59pm AEDT on January 27, 2011, to lodge their votes by clicking here.
Bennett was asked today if the emphasis of the All Stars game should be to showcase some of the upcoming young stars or about picking the best team.
"It's about picking the best team. There will be a mix of young players in there," he said.
The Indigenous team won the inaugural match 16-12 last year, and Bennett said their flair was always a strength.
"They played with a fair bit of discipline last season (also), and individually they have some very talented players, with guys like Prince, Thurston, Soward. So ideally I'd like to see players in our side who can tackle," Bennett said.
He is also confident the NRL All Stars can counteract the intense passion of the Indigenous team through their "personal pride".
"As they showed last year, they are competitive people, who have a deep pride in themselves and don't like to be shown up," he said.
Bennett said the All Stars concept is important to the game and the seven-time premiership winning coach has made it clear he wants to be involved for the long-term.
"It's important now, but it's a different concept (than Origin)," he said. "It has its place, and as shown last year, the players, fans and administrators have embraced it.
"It will never be Origin, but it was never designed to be Origin, but it was definitely played with the intensity of Origin.
"... I was elated last year when they asked me (to coach). It was something I wanted to be part of.
"I asked them for the job back for 2011 and beyond. It was a great week, and the players and staff all embraced it, and I know the players that were there last year but are unlucky this year will miss it. It was a fun week with the community, and it was a great game of football." Overview of NRL All Stars voting:
- The first player to be chosen in the NRL All Stars team will be the player who scores the highest number of overall votes in a position.
- Once a player from one club is placed in the team, no other player from that club can be chosen.
- If a player withdraws from the team due to injury, he will be replaced by someone from the bench.
- The open bench spot will then be replaced by someone from the injured player’s club, with the new player having recorded the second highest number of votes from that club, either as a forward, back or utility, depending on the position needed for the bench.
To vote, click here.
Rugby League fans are also being reminded to secure their tickets for the 2011 Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars, with less than 2000 tickets remaining.
Tickets are available through Ticketek outlets, on 132 849 or click here.
New Zealand customers can call 0800 842 538 or +61 132 849.