All Stars game must remain: Thaiday
Indigenous All Stars forward Sam Thaiday has backed the All Stars concept to continue well into the future amid concerns this will be its last year.
The game, to be held this Saturday night at Suncorp Stadium, will showcase Indigenous culture as well as an array of rugby league’s best players from around the world.
In what will be the sixth instalment, a theme has emerged in the lead up to each game.
Each year there are concerns raised about the longevity of the fixture as issues around public interest and player welfare resurface.
Injuries to key players have crippled both the World and Indigenous All Stars this year, with New Zealand’s Roger Tuivasa-Sheck being the latest casualty.
Thaiday was quick to dismiss concerns around the concept, insisting that it is more than just a game of rugby league.
"I think there is always going to be some aspect of the Indigenous All Stars within the NRL," said Thaiday.
"We have set a benchmark now and I think it will continue in some way shape or form.
"A lot of people say it’s not an interesting game anymore but I’m sure 35 – 40,000 people will show up to Suncorp Stadium Saturday night to watch it so someone must be interested.
"Being with the community is the most important part of this week.
"What the NRL do through the players that are in both teams, such as the One Community Project, is fantastic.
"There are a lot of different events all over Brisbane. Many school kids have been given an opportunity to meet us and have money can’t buy experiences.
"That is the most important thing about this game. It’s not the 80 minutes on Saturday; it’s what we do with the young kids and elders in the community throughout the week. We are trying to promote a healthy way of living that includes setting and planning goals for young kids' futures."
With the fixture of great significance to Indigenous communities, there's a school of thought that the match should be moved away from capital cities so that more can be experience the community events in the lead up to the event.
Townsville born Thaiday supports the idea and would one day love to represent his Indigenous people in front of a hometown crowd.
"There are options there for those things in the future. It would give the game an opportunity to grow if we move it to places like that," said Thaiday.
"I’m sure it would be a deadest sell-out if you had it in Townsville.
"There would be people hanging off the lights to see the game so who knows where this game will go.
"The concept can only grow and get better so hopefully we can go to places like North Queensland or the remote communities in New South Wales. This game could do with a bit of a boost so who knows where this All Stars game will go."