The NRL’s most popular winger Manu Vatuvei has today withdrawn from All Stars contention with the Warriors winger still recovering from surgery to a broken arm.
The Kiwi international sustained the injury during the Four Nations, won by New Zealand in November, and is very disappointed to miss the February 12 match after being part of the historic inaugural All Stars clash last year.
Vatuvei was the leading winger in the final stage of public voting which closes on January 27 when he officially withdrew today, with his Warriors spot on the 64-man shortlist taken up by new recruit Krisnan Inu.
“It is a great concept and the whole week of promotions and activities last year to support Indigenous Australians was a great experience,” Vatuvei said.
“Getting to play alongside players like Darren Lockyer and other Kangaroos and NRL club players was also amazing. I am really disappointed to not get the chance to play again this year.”
The final voting stage requires the public to choose 16 players (only one player from each club) from the publicly-voted shortlist (four players from each club – two backs and two forwards) to join captain Darren Lockyer and vice-captain Benji Marshall.
All Stars coach Wayne Bennett can then choose two more interchange players to make up an extended bench for the clash against the Indigenous All Stars at the Gold Coast’s Skilled Park.
Vatuvei’s withdrawal adds to the dilemma for the “selectors” with Bennett expressing interest in the Warriors winger and his Knights’ rival Akuila Uate, who is vying for a spot against his club captain Kurt Gidley.
"Well they both sound great; both wonderful players to watch," Bennett said. "Only problem is if you pick someone like Uate, you leave someone like Gidley out.
"...Gidley certainly offers far more versatility, but you have to try and get a balanced team, so it just depends if Gidley or Uate fits into that." 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.