Parramatta captain Nathan Hindmarsh believes today’s launch of NRL All Stars voting will trigger an unspoken in-house rivalry at all NRL clubs.
With voting for the Indigenous All Stars side now closed and the team’s squad of 20 set to be announced next Wednesday, focus shifts to the first stage of voting for the NRL All Stars, with room for just one member from each NRL team in addition to a combined four automatic and coach’s selections.
Hindmarsh confirmed every Eels squad member wanted to wear the prestigious NRL All Stars jersey in the traditional season opener at Skilled Park on February 4.
Star fullback Jarryd Hayne was the fans’ choice as the Eels’ representative for the inaugural clash in 2010 but workhorse back-rower ‘Hindy’ won out in 2011.
“I think everyone would like to make it, yeah,” Hindmarsh told NRL.com today. “I’m sure Timmy Mannah would like to make it – he had a good season. Fuifui Moimoi – the first year they had it I think he was meant to be a part of it but got injured, so everyone would like to have a crack at it, sure.”
Hindmarsh said the All Stars game offered players a good fitness test in the lead-up to the new NRL season, as well as providing a unique environment to mix professionally and socially with players they wouldn’t otherwise meet.
“I think that’s the great thing about playing rep footy or the All Stars – you come across blokes you play against but you don’t really get to know, and during these camps you get to know them,” he said.
“The workload is not heavy – there’s plenty of downtime, so there’s plenty of coffees. And if you’re Tim Mannah … Cold Rock [ice-cream],” he joked.
“It’s good that way, just to build friendships and get to know people we wouldn’t otherwise get to know.”
Hindmarsh said that although players on both sides would be focused on victory, the nature of the All Stars clash gave the players the chance to showcase a more daredevil, attacking brand of football.
“It’s good to give back to the fans a different style of footy that they like… that’s the All Stars,” he said.
“It’s a bit different to playing an Origin or something like that. It’s a lot more relaxed. It’s more about entertaining the crowd, even though both sides want to win, but it doesn’t have the same results as Origin-style… there’s no real rush to get to know [the games of] too many players, it’s just about playing football.”
Hindmarsh said the All Stars week’s lead-up activities were extremely rewarding for players.
“The highlight during the camps is the school visits … the little kids’ clinics – I really enjoy doing those,” he said.
“It’s not every day kids get to see their idols and the footy players they look up to and watch on TV every week, so I enjoy seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces when they get to catch a bomb or pass a football with an NRL player.
“After getting a crack at it last year it would be nice to go again, knowing what it’s like.”
Hindmarsh said that while he wouldn’t look forward to trying to contain new Eels recruit Chris Sandow in the All Stars game if both were selected, he was keen to see what the diminutive No.7 could add to the blue-and-golds’ attack in 2012.
“Yeah definitely – I think he can bring a lot to the team. It’s too early to say exactly what but once the season rolls on we’ll hopefully see what he can do,” he said.
Prop Justin Poore, who was plagued by injuries last year after joining Parramatta from St George Illawarra in 2010, is another player Hindmarsh has high hopes for in 2012.
“He’s had a pretty bad run with injuries although he had a couple of games for us towards the end of this season – and he played well,” Hindmarsh said.
“When we did buy him he was at the top of his game but injuries set him back a bit. But he’s worked very hard to get back where he is now and he’ll just bolster our forward pack a lot.
“He’s a great player – a representative player – and it’s great to have him fit again.”
Hindmarsh said the key to entering the new NRL season was “not to get too far ahead of ourselves”.
“Just making sure we get through the pre-season, prepare ourselves the best we can, and hopefully things go our way,” he said.
“The main goal is to win the competition; everyone wants to do the same thing. Just getting through the pre-season is the first goal.”
• Fans have until December 23 to be a selector in the first stage of voting at www.nrl.com/allstars