Saturday 6.30pm (Qld Time)
The anticipation surrounding this inaugural All Stars game grows every second as we all await kick-off on the Gold Coast. The Indigenous unit have made it very clear they will be taking this match very seriously, so the supernova stars in the NRL side better be ready for a fight or they’ll be bashed off the park.
We can expect a real thrill-fest as individuals try to showcase their attacking skills. But the odd big hit will also be on show. Any game with this many big names shapes to be one heck of a spectacle – Thurston, Prince, Campbell, Soward against the likes of Jennings, Hayne, Lockyer and Marshall.
Then there are the innovative, one-off rules like the double try chance – how can it fail to impress? You’ve just got to watch this game!
Watch out NRL All Stars: The Indigenous All Stars have an extremely dangerous and potent halves pairing in Johnathan Thurston and Scott Prince, with Preston Campbell at fullback and Jamie Soward ready to slot in from the bench. The key to shutting down the Indigenous team will be to limit their influence and involvement throughout the game.
Thurston scored 11 tries, made 10 line-breaks, 24 line-break assists, 25 try assists and 78 tackle-breaks in 2009, while Prince tallied seven tries, six line-breaks, 20 line-break assists, 24 try assists and 55 tackle-breaks. When you add Soward’s 12 tries, 16 line-breaks, 19 line-break assists, 27 try assists and 77 tackle-breaks and Campbell’s five tries, 10 line-breaks, 11 line-break assists, 15 try assists and 94 tackle-breaks, you have a quartet to be feared.
If Prince and Thurston can gel as a pairing it could spell massive trouble for the NRL side.
Look for Thurston’s trademark show-and-go, Soward’s chip-and-chase, Prince’s flat bullet passes to men in space, and Campbell’s bob-and-weave agility.
Watch out Indigenous All Stars: Everywhere you turn there is a superstar attacking weapon on the NRL All Star team. If it’s not Folau it’s Hayne. If not Hayne it’s Lockyer. If not Lockyer, Marshall, if not Marshall it’s Jennings. You get the picture.
The Indigenous side has to contend with men who can break the line often with ball in hand but they also have to watch the likes of Folau and his prowess in the air.
Lockyer will no doubt send an aerial raid towards Folau’s wing, considering the likely wing options for the Indigenous side aren’t famous jumpers. And fullback Preston Campbell isn’t the best under a high ball either.
Also, keep a close watch on Rabbitohs recruit Sam Burgess. This ‘big bopper’ is primed to make an early impact in the southern hemisphere and won’t be running soft.
Where it will be won: This game will be won on attitude. When a team of individuals are thrown together, the only way to survive is to bond fast and unite under a common cause with pride and passion.
The Indigenous side has shown they are a committed, bonded unit brimming with pride having been given this opportunity. If they take this attitude into the match they are a definite chance of springing an upset over the NRL Side.
The NRL All Stars need to prove they are proud of their own performance and are ready to play with passion or they will not only be beaten, they will be hurt.
With class in every position, the NRL side outpoints the Indigenous on paper but they’ll need to match it in heart to emerge victorious.
The other crucial factor will be turnovers and attack from them. The handling here won’t be perfect – it is the pre-season after all – but the team that counter-punches from mistakes and takes full advantage of the loose ball will gain a massive advantage.
Don’t be surprised to see teams attack early in the tackle count, as any edge will be vital.
The History: This is the inaugural All Stars match although the concept has been given the green light for a few years to come.
Conclusion: This match will be a high-scoring, thrill-a-minute rollercoaster of fun – but it will also have its serious side.
The NRL All Stars should win this contest but without the same motivation as their opponents they could easily be blindsided and steamrolled. Also, Billy Slater’s late withdrawal is a downer for them.
Watch the Indigenous players, as they do their pre-game war dance, look into their eyes, and you will see the pride bursting from them as they represent their people. You cannot underestimate this. Expect attack and counter-attack, and some bruising hits as well.
The footy is back… and don’t we love it! What price a draw?
Match officials: Referees – Ashley Klein, Shayne Hayne, Gavin Badger, Luke Phillips; Sideline Officials – Steve Chiddy & Henry Perenara; Video Ref – Tim Mander.
Televised: Channel 9 – Live 6.30pm (Queensland time), 7.30pm (NSW). Or watch it live her on NRL.com
* Statistics: NRL Stats.