The NRL’s “most popular” player Nathan Hindmarsh should be in the best shape of his career for the 2011 Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars in two months following his toughest pre-season in years. <br><br> With the first round of public voting closing in two weeks (Dec 28), the Eels captain has so far attracted the most votes overall for the NRL All Stars team (almost 7000), just ahead of the Rabbitohs’ injured Englishman Sam Burgess (second in the forwards voting) and the Raiders’ Josh Dugan who leads the backs tally. <br><br> After the first stage of voting for the Harvey Norman NRL All Stars team, a squad of 64 players – two forwards and two backs from each club - will be announced for the second round of voting which opens January 3. <br><br> Hindmarsh wasn’t chosen to play in the inaugural All Stars game this year won 16-12 by the Indigenous team, but said he would “love to do it”. <br><br> “It is a great concept … I watched the game this year,” he said. “Just to be in it with the people who will be there like Darren Lockyer … it would be something to remember.” <br><br> However, Hindmarsh said he had barely had time to think about playing in the February 12 match with his focus firmly on a “fresh start” in 2011 and “getting through” the tough pre-season training under new Eels coach Stephen Kearney. <br><br> “It’s very hard … the hardest we’ve done in a long time; but it’s been good,” Hindmarsh said. <br><br> “It’s probably the toughest pre-season in about five to six years, since Brian Smith. It’s good for a lot of the younger guys especially. <br><br> “Brian Smith was a hard marker and that goes with you through your whole career.” <br><br> Hindmarsh admitted that the various disruptions towards the end of last season had started to take their toll on the team, but it had prepared them well for the off-field hiccups in recent weeks with Timana Tahu and now Eric Grothe departing. <br><br> “We’re all looking forward to a fresh start in 2011,” Hindmarsh said. “Unfortunately Daniel Anderson didn’t get the chance to carry on … but Steve Kearney has come on board with good ideas and has got the boys training hard. <br><br> “Whatever is happening off the field we are handling well because of what happened last year. <br><br> “To be honest we are working so hard just trying to get through the day, you don’t even realise if someone isn’t at training.” <br><br> <b>Overview of NRL All Stars voting:</b> <br> - 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. <br> - Once a player from one club is placed in the team, no other player from that club can be chosen. <br> - If a player withdraws from the team due to injury, he will be replaced by someone from the bench. <br> - 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. <br><br> To vote,<a href="http://www.nrl.com/repgames/allstarsvoting/tabid/10972/default.aspx"> click here.</a> <br><br> Rugby League fans are also being reminded to secure their tickets for the 2011 Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars, with about 3000 tickets remaining. <br><br> Tickets are available through Ticketek outlets, on 132 849 or <a href="http://premier.ticketek.com.au/shows/show.aspx?sh=ALLSTARS11&searchId=167f91d5-7c5e- 4940-aef1-41341b312dde"> click here.</a> <br><br> New Zealand customers can call 0800 842 538 or +61 132 849.
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