Indigenous All Stars team takes shape
It's a team he doesn't solely get to select but Indigenous All Stars coach Laurie Daley insists the voting public have done a wonderful job in putting together a team capable of knocking off the NRL All Stars on February 13.
While Wayne Bennett has been given free rein to choose the NRL All Stars team for the clash at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast next month, rugby league fans have been serving as selectors for the Indigenous All Stars team.
It is not too late to cast your vote for who you think should play and with the recent withdrawals of Nathan Peats (Parramatta) and Andrew Fifita (Cronulla), there are some contentious positions still to be determined.
Close to 150,000 individual votes have already been lodged for potential Indigenous All Stars representatives and Daley said he is enjoying seeing his team taking shape.
"We have got some of the most talented players the game has ever seen who look like they will be in our team so I couldn't be more excited to get back into camp with them again," Daley told NRL.com.
"With the way the voting is panning out we look like having a good mix of players who have been in All Stars camp before and also some exciting youngsters in Alex Johnston and Tyrone Peachey who will get to experience it for the first time which will be great for the entire squad.
"It's a shame that both Nathan and Andrew have had to withdraw due to injury but that gives the likes of Ray Thompson, Travis Waddell, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs and Kyle Turner the chance to perhaps receive a call-up."
Voting for the Indigenous All Stars team closes on Friday and as has been the case in the four previous encounters plenty of attention is on the forwards at Daley's disposal.
Bennett signalled his intentions by declaring that he went out with the purpose of picking a big, aggressive forward pack but Daley has every faith that he has the muscle to complement the magic of the likes of Thurston, Inglis, Hodges and Idris.
"It's no secret that we've been perhaps light on in terms of depth when it comes to front-rowers in the past but I'm sure Tommy Learoyd-Lahrs is keen for a big year, Ryan James is hopefully back to full fitness and if Georgey Rose lifts like he always does for this game, I've got no doubt we can match them up front," said Daley, who has coached the Indigenous All Stars since 2011.
"We've got players with plenty of skill in our back row so depending on the final make-up of the side that may dictate the type of game we want to play and where we think we can get an edge."
The All Stars ledger currently stands at two apiece with the Indigenous All Stars triumphant in 2010 and 2013 and the NRL All Stars collecting the spoils in 2011 and 2012.
Possible Indigenous All Stars team as of Wednesday, January 5 (based on top-20 vote-getters)
1. Greg Inglis (Rabbitohs)
2. Josh Hoffman (Titans)
3. Jamal Idris (Panthers)
4. Justin Hodges (Broncos)
5. Alex Johnston* (Rabbitohs)
6. Ben Barba (Sharks)
7. Johnathan Thurston (c) (Cowboys)
8. Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Storm)
9. Ray Thompson (Cowboys)
10. George Rose (Dragons)
11. Sam Thaiday (Broncos)
12. Tyrone Peachey* (Panthers)
13. Greg Bird (Titans)
14. Jamie Soward (Panthers)
15. Chris Sandow (Eels)
16. Will Chambers* (Storm)
17. Ryan James (Titans)
18. Joel Thompson (Dragons)
19. Kyle Turner* (Rabbitohs)
20. David Fifita* (Sharks)
*Yet to represent Indigenous All Stars