Indigenous All Stars coach Laurie Daley says he can’t wait for the announcement of his squad of 17 for the high-excitement 2012 season opener, confident Rugby League fans have provided him with a star-studded team to take on the NRL All Stars at Skilled Park on February 4. 

With voting for the Indigenous team having closed at midnight last night, Daley thanked all fans for their passion in helping to select the squad for the popular landmark Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars clash, now in its third year. 

He said the fans’ enthusiasm and unquenchable thirst for the All Stars concept was certain to deliver a highly competitive team when the official squad is announced on Wednesday December 7.  

“I can’t thank the fans enough for their support – they’ve embraced the All Stars concept to the max again,” he told NRL.com today. “It would have been a really tough job given there were so many freakishly gifted players to choose from.

“But I’m sure the bunch of guys who are lucky enough to get to wear the Indigenous jersey in 2012 will go a long way towards winning us back ‘bragging rights’.

“I’m really looking forward to speaking to all the successful players and I’m sure they will all acknowledge the huge show of faith the fans have placed in them.” 

Early polling revealed plenty of stars locked in battle for positions. With voting now closed, NRL.com can exclusively reveal:

• Canterbury’s Ben Barba and the Cowboys’ Matthew Bowen were neck and neck in the race for the No.1 jersey. Most fans saw Bowen as a specialist fullback – while speedster Barba also polled strongly as a bench option.

• Kangaroo Willie Tonga was pressing Australian representative team-mates Greg Inglis and Justin Hodges for a centre berth.

• Jharal Yow Yeh, Blake Ferguson and Nathan Merritt were fighting for the two wing positions.

• With captain Johnathan Thurston locked in at five-eighth, fans were torn over their choice of halfback, with Scott Prince, Jamie Soward and Chris Sandow all prominent.

• Less than 100 votes separated hooker options Anthony Mitchell, Joel Romelo and Travis Waddell.

Daley said he would look closely at the fans’ selections before naming his three ‘coach’s picks’ to balance out the 20-man squad.

“However things pan out I know we’ll be competitive and I’m sure the occasion of representing the Indigenous people will see players determined to deliver for what should be another sell-out crowd at Skilled Park,” he said.

Meanwhile, voting for the first stage of the NRL All Stars team begins on Friday, December 2 on NRL.com