All Stars week drives NRL inclusiveness

NRL CEO Dave Smith has addressed the All Teams Dinner as part of the NRL Indigenous All Stars week on the Gold Coast on Wednesday night.

The dinner was attended by a cross section of talent from all parts of the NRL – from the grass roots to under-16s, touch players, women's teams and players from the Indigenous All Stars and NRL All Stars teams.

Also present were local elder Maureen Newtown, Chair of the NRL Indigenous Council Linda Burney, CEO of Reconciliation Australia Justin Mohamed, and Co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples Les Malezer.

"This week is an important one in our calendar where we celebrate the Indigenous part of our game and recognise the wonderful contribution that is made by the Indigenous community to rugby league," Smith said in his address.

"While football takes centre stage, this is really a week when we take pride in the relationship between rugby league and the Indigenous community."

Get your tickets to the All Stars game at ticketek.com.au/allstars

The NRL CEO also joined 60 young people who were invited to take part in the NRL's Indigenous Youth Summit earlier in the week. 

Activities at the summit encouraged participants to think strategically to solve problems, with visits and input from All Stars players. This created an environment grounded in education and development mixed with the game of rugby league.

"It was one of the most inspiring sessions I have been involved with," Smith said.

"Here we had 60 young future leaders of the Indigenous community, selected by our clubs because they are going well at school, pitting their wits against each other in a series of challenges as they strive to be better people and create a better life."

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders make up 12 percent of NRL players, with that figure rising to 24 percent when it comes to the Australian Test team.

"There are so many Indigenous players and former players who perform valuable community work without any fanfare – week in, week out. The impact they have on young people is phenomenal," Smith said.

"A youngster who may not be engaged in the classroom will sit up and take notice when an Alex Johnson or a Josh Hoffman stresses the importance of education, because they look up to these players as heroes. 

"It changes lives for the better. It makes a real difference to people's lives."

The NRL was the first major Australian sport to develop a Reconciliation Action Plan which commits to tackling social issues facing Indigenous people. It includes securing more jobs in the game for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders through to helping Indigenous suppliers and supporting constitutional recognition.

The NRL also has a strong stance against racism and has adopted the 'Racism Stops With Me' campaign. Smith said he was committed to seeing racism stamped out at all levels of the game.

"Inclusiveness and teamwork are two of our core values in the NRL. Inclusiveness and teamwork are what will drive growth in the game," he said.

"We have come a long way in the last three years, but we can do more and we will do more."

The Indigenous All Stars week culminates in a feast of football on Friday with Touch, Under 16s and Women's games preceding the main event at Cbus Super Stadium.

Indigenous All Stars v NRL AllStars
Cbus Super Stadium
Friday, February 13, 2015 (all times QLD)
3:00pm – Touch match
4:00pm – U16s match
5:35pm – Women's match
7:30pm – All Stars match

Get your tickets to the All Stars game at ticketek.com.au/allstars