All Stars jerseys share special meaning
They are treasured jerseys not only for the career milestone for which they represent but also the families who will share them.
For first-time Indigenous All Stars representative Josh Hoffman, taking the field on February 13 at Cbus Super Stadium will be a way to honour his mother, Grace, and her Torres Strait Island heritage. For Michael Ennis, his latest NRL All Stars jersey will take pride of place in his eldest son Jack's wardrobe when the family returns home from the Gold Coast.
They may be contrasting connections for essentially the same honour but Ennis said as his career enters a new phase at the Sharks and has more games behind it than there are to come, sharing such moments with family allows a game of footy to take on a whole new meaning.
"At this stage of my career, my kids were blown away to hear their dad was going to play in an All Stars game," Ennis said after being named in Wayne Bennett's NRL All Stars team for a second time.
"They're obviously extremely passionate representing their backgrounds and where they're from in the Indigenous team and for us it's an opportunity to play under the banner of an All Stars which carries a fair representation in terms of things like family, your kids, junior communities and things where you've come from as well. So there's plenty at stake in the game and I'm rapt to be part of it.
"[My jersey from 2012] is in my eldest son's cupboard, he claims all my jerseys before the youngest one gets to them. They're all there with the boys so it will be a lovely one to hang back up after this game for them to see.
"Just seeing the smiles on their faces and knowing that they're coming up to the Gold Coast for a couple of days to see their dad play in a game... It gives me a pretty special feeling to be honest."
To gain some kind of appreciation for what wearing the Indigenous All Stars jersey means to Hoffman you need only to ask him who he looked up to as a young player learning the game in Mackay.
Ask him his role models in his formative years and he nominates Cliff Lyons and Sean Hoppe, both international representatives, one of Indigenous heritage and the other a proud Maori.
It's a microcosm of Hoffman's own DNA and after representing the nation of his father Shane's birth with five Tests for the Kiwis, the 26-year-old is now honoured to represent his mother and share in the Indigenous cultures of other players.
"It means a lot to me, to be representing my mother's side is very special," Hoffman said. "Given that I've had the opportunity to represent my father that is special as well but this means a whole lot and was something that I really wanted to strive for this year and make it my goal. I'm very thankful that I've been given this opportunity.
"It gives me a chance to go back further and look into my mother's culture and not only that but going into camp and learning about other Indigenous players' and their culture and where they come from so I'm really looking forward to that.
"Once you put the jersey on nothing else matters when you go out onto the field with all your brothers - or balas - it's a different story and I'm really looking forward to taking the field with Greg Inglis, Johnathan Thurston and Sammy Thaiday. It's a dream come true to be on the same paddock as them."
Not only will Hoffman have a strong family connection in the stands on the Gold Coast next month, he will also be sharing the occasion with his cousin, Dane Gagai, another who will be making his Indigenous All Stars debut.
It's a unique opportunity for the pair who grew up together in Mackay and who played five NRL games together at the Broncos back in 2011.
"I'm looking forward to sharing it with the cousin again. It's going to be the first time in a while since we've strapped the boots on together so I'm looking forward to that and just the whole concept and the week ahead is going to be exciting," Hoffman said.
"We've both got pretty big families so he'll have to fly half down and I'll fly half down. We've got a pretty big family back home in Mackay so they're going to be asking for a fair few tickets and hopefully we can get them all down for the game."