North Queensland Cowboys halfback Johnathan Thurston and South Sydney Rabbitohs fullback Greg Inglis will headline a star-studded Indigenous All Stars squad for the Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars at Cbus Super Stadium on Friday, February 13.
The two finished as the most popular selections from a public vote of more than 15,000 fans, and were separated by just 33 votes when the polls closed.
Thurston and Inglis will join the likes of Justin Hodges, Sam Thaiday, Greg Bird and Ben Barba in the Indigenous All Stars squad, which will be coached by Laurie Daley. Thurston will join new Cronulla signing Barba in a dynamic halves pairing which will be hoping to help the squad retain the Arthur Beetson trophy following their 2013 win at Suncorp Stadium.
Indigenous All Stars assistant coach Wendell Sailor was joined by debutant winger Josh Hoffman (Gold Coast Titans) to announce the 2015 Indigenous All-Stars Squad in Brisbane today.
Joining Thurston and Inglis in the backs will be the experience of Justin Hodges (Broncos) in the centres, alongside Will Chambers (Storm). South Sydney's premiership-winning winger Alex Johnston and Gold Coast Titan Josh Hoffman will make their All Stars debuts.
In the forwards, the Indigenous side will be led by Greg Bird and his Titans team mate Ryan James, with Broncos stalwart Sam Thaiday joined by youngster Tyrone Peachey (Panthers) in the second row, recent St George Illawarra signing George Rose at prop, and Ray Thompson (Cowboys) at hooker. Adding to a talented and experienced Indigenous side are four coaches picks, including Kyle Turner (Rabbitohs), Jack Wighton (Raiders) and Kierran Moseley (Titans).
Daley commended fans on their enthusiasm in the selection process.
"The public have made it easy for me and I can't wait to coach this squad," Daley said. "It is a wonderful squad and there is some incredible talent all the way through it. They will play some exciting football and that is exactly what the All Stars concept is known for.
"I'm really looking forward to bringing this side together and coaching some of the
game's best players and brightest talents."
Having been part of Indigenous All Stars camps as a member of the coaching staff and as a player, Assistant Coach Wendell Sailor said he was proud to be a part of the concept again.
"There is no doubt the fans will be in for an entertaining game with the great mix of talented and exciting backs and powerful forwards in both teams, as well as the blend of experience and youth," he said.
"What is so special about the Indigenous All Stars game is that it recognises the huge contribution that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players make to Rugby League and is a celebration for the wider community."
Coming into the side for the first time, Gold Coast Titans player Josh Hoffman spoke of his excitement surrounding his selection.
"To play alongside some of the game's best Indigenous players is a true honour and I'm certainly excited by the prospect," he said.
"I have heard so many great stories about the way the team comes together during the camp and interacts with the community.
"It should be a great game, a really entertaining spectacle and I can't wait."
Tickets are available for the Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars at ticketek.com.au/allstars
2015 Indigenous All Stars team
1. Greg Inglis (Rabbitohs)
2. Alex Johnston (Rabbitohs)
3. Will Chambers (Storm)
4. Justin Hodges (Broncos)
5. Josh Hoffman (Titans)
6. Ben Barba (Sharks)
7. Johnathan Thurston (Cowboys)
8. George Rose (Dragons)
9. Ray Thompson (Cowboys)
10. Ryan James (Titans)
11. Tyrone Peachey (Panthers)
12. Sam Thaiday (Broncos)
13. Greg Bird (Titans)
14. Chris Sandow (Eels)
15. Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Storm)
16. Dane Gagai (Knights)
17. Kyle Turner (Rabbitohs)
18. Jack Wighton (Raiders)
19. Kierran Moseley (Titans)
20. Brad Tighe (Titans)