It's a fixture universally welcomed back to the rugby league calendar but NRL All Stars hopeful Nate Myles concedes the crowded pre-season is putting increasing pressure on traditional trial games.
Myles joined Indigenous All Stars representative Justin Hodges on the Gold Coast on Friday to officially launch the return of the Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars following a one-year hiatus with the match confirmed through until 2017.
The 2015 season will commence with the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines on January 31 with the All Stars match on Friday, February 13 to be followed by the expanded World Club Challenge series in England that will this year feature premiers South Sydney, Brisbane and St George Illawarra, the season proper to kick off on Thursday, March 5.
Given the final of the recent Four Nations tournament was played only three weeks ago it represents a growing load for the game's elite and Myles said that traditional pre-season trials could be forced to make way.
"I don't think it has as of yet but I think it will to be honest with you," Myles said when asked whether the necessity for trials is diminishing.
"I don't think there is a point in having three trials with two other games involved especially with the Nines where you are playing against other sides. But in saying that you've got to find that balance and run it past the coaches who want to see their side have a proper 80-minute hit-out against good competition in other clubs.
"It's another five games onto the year and you want to chuck in some Origin games in there then there are a couple of players who are going to be playing a lot of footy."
Tickets for the All Stars match to be played at Cbus Super Stadium went on sale on Friday with both Myles and Hodges speaking of the meaning attached to the game from both sides.
A week-long celebration of rugby league and community, Hodges said the chance to play alongside youngsters such as breakout South Sydney star Alex Johnston represents the inclusive nature of the All Stars concept.
"His year has been fantastic, I wish him all the best and hopes he comes into camp," Hodges said. "Those guys you love to play with, he does things other players can't and I would love to play with him. He has a big future in the game.
"For the older guys, you want to see the younger guys come in and see how important it is not just to win the game but for our people. Hanging around the little kids and putting a smile on their face is the purpose of the week. The first couple of years we didn't know what it was about but now we take it more serious."
Working his way back from shoulder and biceps surgery in the off-season, Myles is racing the clock to make his first All Stars appearance since the inaugural clash in 2010 and said because of the nature of the game players can't afford to go in at anything less than 100 per cent fitness.
"The first game of the whole concept was a little bit of a surprise," Myles admitted. "I remember the first 10 minutes just being chaos and Sam Burgess going out there and probably being the most physical.
"With all respect, I don't think we put it up on the pedestal as much as we should have but the game is a terrific event and fierce competition for everyone involved.
"I've got a few things I've got to make sure are ready to get into that and that probably puts another light on the game. You can't go into this game half-hearted; it's a physical, full-strength game and you have to be at your best to compete."
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