Wests Tigers' international Gareth Ellis is set to give English rugby league something to cheer about next month with the second rower in contention to join his superstar Kangaroos rivals in the NRL All Stars.
After England's disappointing Four Nations tournament, Ellis would relish the opportunity to get a second chance to play alongside Australian skipper Darren Lockyer in the NRL All Stars for the clash with the Indigenous All Stars at Skilled Park on February 12.
The 29-year-old was chosen for the inuagural Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars match last year but had to withdraw because of the birth of his first child, Isaac, less than two weeks before the event.
Ellis, who is vying for the Tigers spot again this year against Chris Lawrence, Robbie Farah and Lote Tuqiri, said it would be a "massive honour" to be chosen by the public in the final 16 (one from each club).
"If anyone had told me a few years ago that I would get to play alongside Darren Lockyer and some of the other NRL superstars like Cameron Smith and Billy Slater (injured for 2011 event) I would have laughed at them," he said.
"Im used to chasing them around rather than playing along with them.
"It's a fantastic concept ... not just for the footy side of things but the community aspect also."
Selection to play (for the second time) would be a reflection of how far the Englishman has come as a player (and how hard he has worked) and the impact he has had on and off the field with Australian fans since his "sink or swim" inaugural season in 2009.
"It's been good for me to come out here and be challenged week in, week out," Ellis said.
"It has made me a better player; a more rounded player. Now I look forward to internationals. I'm not daunted by them because I am playing against the best in the world every week.
Ellis has backed calls for the English national team to play a UK Super League All Stars team (representing the rest of the world) mid-season in place of their traditional hit-out against the French national side.
"The mid-season Test against France was not as competive as we needed," Ellis said. "An All Stars match would be a great challenge.
"The more of those sort of games that the younger players in the squad play in the better. They need to be consistently tested.
"The strength of the competition in the NRL is what makes Australia and New Zealand so strong ... they are tested consistently every week.
"Super League is not at that level yet. Only 5-6 teams are really competitive. The others are a little behind." 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.