Brooks, Moylan to be anointed All Stars
He has coached the most skilful players of the past 30 years and NRL All Stars coach Wayne Bennett will help to usher in the next generation when he names Luke Brooks and Matt Moylan in his team to play the Indigenous All Stars on February 13.
Bennett gave NRL.com an exclusive sneak peek into the make-up of his team for the return of the pre-season clash on the Gold Coast with the Wests Tigers' No.7 and Panthers fullback set to make their All Stars debuts.
While public voting for the Indigenous All Stars team remains open until Friday, January 9, the composition of the NRL All Stars team has been left solely in the hands of Bennett, an assignment he said had been a fun one.
The two teams will be formally announced on Monday, January 19 but Bennett did give away a few secrets, citing the skill sets of both Brooks and Moylan as to what enticed him to hand-pick the two youngsters for their maiden All Stars appearances.
"The young halfback Brooks, from the Wests Tigers, he's in the squad," Bennett revealed to NRL.com. "I put Moylan in there from Penrith; he's got great skill and I love the skill part of the game. It's what attracts me as much as anything else to it.
"I know it's a physical, tough game but there's a hell of a lot of skill in our game and there are some wonderful players who have the ability to do that and I love watching what they do and how they do it.
"It's not easy because we've only got a couple of days together but I'll just let them play a bit of footy and entertain them. At the end of the day we want to be there to entertain everybody as well."
Moylan rode a breakout first full season in the NRL all the way to a place in the Kangaroos' Four Nations squad while Brooks was named the Dally M Rookie of the Year after 21 starts at halfback for the Tigers in 2014.
The other notable inclusion in Bennett's team is Sharks and New South Wales skipper Paul Gallen at lock in what is likely to be his first game back from his ASADA-imposed suspension stemming from Cronulla's 2011 supplements program.
Gallen and the other nine players who accepted the back-dated suspensions were free to return to their clubs from November 23 and Bennett said he had no hesitation in inviting Gallen back into the All Stars fold after previous appearances in 2011 and 2012.
"Yeah he's on the bit of paper, he's there... He's No.13," Bennett said of Gallen. "He enjoyed it a couple of years ago, he came in and enjoyed himself. I tell you what, it's a lot better than pre-season training; no one will put their hand up for that. They get five days on the Coast and we don't flog 'em, it's good times."
Bennett also confirmed that if available Gold Coast and Queensland forward Nate Myles will be an NRL All Stars representative for the first time since 2010 as he endeavours to build a forward pack that will be minus Matt Scott, James Tamou and Cameron Smith.
In the ultimate game of NRL Fantasy, Bennett has scoured the 16 NRL clubs for the best available talent and said his first port of call was the big blokes up front.
"I've picked a pretty big, aggressive forward pack... That's your dream to have a big, aggressive forward pack regardless of where you coach," said the master coach with a glint in his eye and a smile creasing his face.
"I started with the forwards. I wanted a pack of forwards that were big and aggressive. Matt Scott at the Cowboys, he's not available, but outside that the rest of them I think will be available and that was where I started.
"It's been challenging because you can still only take one player from each club but the wild cards helped me a bit. I had two which is part of the rules but with Cameron Smith pulling out, as captain of Australia that was a mandated position taken, so that probably gives me three selections so that helps a lot."
The Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars game will be played at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast on Friday, February 13. Click here for tickets.