All Stars’ promise: ‘It’s time to repay the fans’

YOU can’t blame them for breathing a collective sigh of relief…

In a frank admission on the eve of tomorrow night’s historic All Stars clash on the Gold Coast, NRL prop David Shillington says the withdrawal of eight players through injury this week has taken some of the shine off the highly anticipated encounter – but he added his side remains highly motivated to repay the fans’ faith in picking the squad.

Certainly the Indigenous side has fared the worst, following the loss of strike centres Greg Inglis and Justin Hodges – two of the game’s most devastating ball-runners.

“It’s probably more disappointing for the Indigenous team having guys like Hodges and Inglis pull out,” Shillington told NRL.com.

“With those two players in… gee they would be a hard team to beat!

“We were looking at the side before they pulled out and they already had Scott Prince and Jamie Soward and Johnathan Thurston in the halves alone.

“You throw those two centres in and that’s a really impressive team – they would be very hard to stop.

“Obviously (us) losing Billy Slater is disappointing for the fans, so yeah, the game may lose a little bit. But there are high-quality players that have come in and they’ll still put on a show.”

The withdrawals of Inglis and Hodges as well as impact forward Daine Laurie and veteran dummy-half PJ Marsh have seen the NRL side slashed to comfortable $1.65 favourites against the Indigenous side at $2.15.

Although both sides have been rocked by injury, the depth of talent available to the NRL side was highlighted yesterday when Dally M Medalist Jarryd Hayne was moved into the starting line-up to cover for the loss of Slater.

However, Shillington insisted the All Stars clash still promised to be one of the most exciting games of the year.

And he rejected any suggestion that the NRL All Stars might struggle to match the passion of their Indigenous rivals.

“I mean, I can see that [the Indigenous All Stars] have a lot to play for,” he explained. “It gives them their respect and their individuality.

“It’s a bit like playing for New South Wales or Queenslander or New Zealand – they’re all proud of who they are and are playing for their people.

“But I think the NRL All Stars team is playing for someone too – the fans. The fans have picked us and that’s what the game is about.

“You’re playing for respect and you want to win. In any game of football you play, you want to win.
“You can’t get any more motivation than that.

“The whole theme of the game – NRL All Stars v an Indigenous team – is exciting for everyone.”

It’s also a deserved reward for Shillington, who earned plenty of admirers last season after moving to Canberra from the high-profile Sydney Roosters.

“You never forget these games, playing alongside the world’s best players,” the 26-year-old said..

“The fact that the fans picked me means a lot.

“We were at a signing session the other day and a couple of Raiders fans walked up to me and told me how disappointed they were that Alan Tongue had to pull out.

“He is a local hero in Canberra and they were devastated that they wouldn’t get a chance to see him play.

“That certainly puts everything in perspective.”

Shillington said he hoped tomorrow’s game would kick-start another successful season after he enjoyed a breakthrough 2009 in which he made both his Queensland and Australian debuts.
“I felt like I landed on my feet by moving to Canberra and the reward was being picked for Queensland and Australia,” he said.

“My goal is to kick on this year and play some more rep footy and hopefully help the Raiders reach the finals.

“We felt like we let ourselves down last season.

“We showed at the end of the year what we were capable of against some of the bigger teams, so I think it will be an exciting year for us this year.”


NRL ALL STARS                INDIGENOUS ALL STARS

1  Jarryd HAYNE               1  Preston CAMPBELL (C)
2  Israel FOLAU               2  Nathan MERRITT
3  Michael JENNINGS        3  Jamal IDRIS
4  Matt COOPER              21 Beau CHAMPION  
5  Manu VATUVEI             5  Wendell SAILOR
6  Darren LOCKYER (C)     6  Scott PRINCE
7  Benji MARSHALL           7  Johnathan THURSTON
8  Adam BLAIR                8  George ROSE
9  Cameron SMITH           9  Travis WADELL
10 Sam BURGESS            10 Carl WEBB
11 Anthony WATMOUGH   11 Cory PATERSON
12 David SHILLINGTON     12 Tom LEAROYD-LAHRS
13 Luke O’DONNELL         13 Sam THAIDAY
14 Kurt GIDLEY               14 Jamie SOWARD
15 Anthony TUPOU          15 Yileen GORDON
16 Nate MYLES               16 Greg BIRD
17 Robbie FARAH            17 Jharal YOW YEH
18 Luke BAILEY              18 Ben JONES
19 Josh MORRIS             19 Joel THOMPSON
20 Brett FINCH               20 Blake FERGUSON