Captains agree All Stars is special
The Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars match this Saturday has a special feel and magic about it for both sides according to NRL All Stars and Indigenous All stars captains Darren Lockyer and Johnathan Thurston at a joint media conference at the Gold Coast today. <br><br>Kicking off on the eve of the third anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations, the sense of occasion surrounding the second annual All Stars match at Skilled Park already burns brightly in the minds of the players. <br><br> “This match is something very special,” said Lockyer. <br><br> “The players on both sides sense it and there is a magic about what it brings out in them on the field and during the week. <br><br> “Playing in the same team as Benji is going to be something to look forward to in itself but there are incredible players across both sides. <br><br> “We really respect what this game is about and for the people of Queensland the chance to get the footy back after such a tough couple of months will make this match even more special.” <br><br> Learn. Earn. Legend! Indigenous All Stars captain Thurston, a member of the ARL Indigenous Council Player Advisory Group, talked of the deep emotion of leading the team for the first time in the absence of the injured Preston Campbell. <br><br> “It’s really hard to explain to people just what this game means to the Indigenous players and to our communities,” he said. <br><br> “For the players, the families and the communities there is a sense of pride and a sense of country that goes beyond what you can talk about. <br><br> “It makes you want to do the best you can no matter who is on the other team. <br><br> “They call it Deadly Spirit, Deadly Culture, Deadly People.” <br><br> Amid the emergence of an Origin style rivalry on the field, the second Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars game (kick-off at 7.10pm AEST, 8.10pm AEDT) has brought together community leaders, political leaders, educationalists, Indigenous sporting heroes, entertainers and tens of thousands of Australians. <br><br> NRL Chief Executive David Gallop said that the week, which will include an Indigenous youth summit, women in league dinner, Indigenous leaders forum, One Community education programs, a two-day public festival, a women’s All Stars match and a junior All Stars was one of the most significant in the game and a fitting launch to the 2011 season. <br><br> Chairman of the Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council William "Smiley" Johnstone said that in one year the Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars concept had grown to be an enduring symbol of reconciliation and that the Indigenous programs were unique in their focus on changing lives rather than recruiting players. <br><br> Proceeds will again be diverted to club community programs with a particular focus on Indigenous programs. <br><br> Collections will also be raised before and during the match to benefit Queenslanders devastated by the recent floods and cyclone. <br><br> “In the months since the first Harvey Norman All Stars game Rugby League has renewed its Reconciliation Action Plan, joined Indigenous employment expos and lifted the Federal Government’s Learn. Earn. Legend! student mentoring program to national prominence,” David Gallop, said today. “The programs that the ARL Indigenous Council, Rugby League’s One Community and our clubs are working towards in the year ahead are even more ambitious.” <br><br> Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development and Minister for Sport Mark Arbib said the All Stars match also marked the first anniversary of the Learn. Earn. Legend! campaign. <br><br> “In the year since we kicked off Learn. Earn. Legend! at the first All Stars game, the program has grown dramatically,” Senator Arbib said. <br><br> “I’m delighted this year that as well as the All Stars game and the employment expo, the NRL will host a Youth Summit and other events to spread the Learn. Earn. Legend! message even further. <br><br> “Our aim is to get more kids staying in school so they can get great jobs and change their lives and help their communities.” <br><br> ARL Indigenous Council Chairman William Johnstone said that the scale of events in this week alone signalled the game’s ongoing commitment to Indigenous Australia. <br><br> “The Learn. Earn. Legend! All Stars Youth Summit involves more than 120 students and the Indigenous Leaders Dinner brings together the Indigenous All Stars with Indigenous leaders from every field including the arts, entertainment, sport, business and the community, from Leah Purcell, Lowitja O’Donoghue and Arthur Beetson to Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Mick Dodson and Christine Anu," he said. <br><br> “The Harvey Norman Women in League All Stars Dinner will bring people together from across South Eastern Queensland and the Bumehla Festival will bring together thousands of people to celebrate Indigenous culture. <br><br> “People struggle to understand sometimes how deeply Rugby League is a part of the Indigenous community and how much it is a part of helping those communities get ahead. <br><br> “It’s not just about kicking a ball, it’s about reading, health, jobs and about practical reconciliation…it’s about giving hope.” <br><br> Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said today: “Queenslanders love their Rugby League and we strongly support events like this which bring people and communities together in a celebration of sport and culture. <br><br> “The Gold Coast, with its wonderful lifestyle and environment, is the perfect location for Saturday night’s game and all the activities that play a part in making this such a fantastic week.” <br><br> Rugby League’s One Community and club programs generated from the Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars in 2010 included: <br> <br>- Indigenous student mentoring in partnership with Learn. Earn. Legend! <br>- Homework assistance for Indigenous students <br>- Eat Well Play Well Stay Well healthy lifestyle program <br>- Rugby League Reads <br>- Dream Believe Achieve targeting high school students <br>- Health programs aimed at ‘closing the life-expectancy gap’ <br>- Reconciliation activities and events <br>- PCYC partnerships aimed at keeping ‘youth off the streets’ <br>- Domestic violence prevention <br>- Environmental education. <br><br> In 2011 the following programs will be added: <br>- Broncos Book Club and Yourtutor online tutoring and education program <br>- Parramatta Eels Learning with League Education Centre and Try Reading literacy and numeracy initiative <br>- Titans Beyond Tomorrow and 100% Knights Indigenous mentoring and career transition programs in partnership with Learn. Earn. Legend! <br>- Souths Cares community classroom at Sydney Corporate Park <br>- Sea Eagles partnership with country NSW and Far North Queensland schools <br>- Wests Tigers Academy of Learning in Western Sydney and Read with Wests Tigers.