All Stars shift gets Gagai's approval
Two-time Indigenous All Stars representative Dane Gagai will be the first to tell you he's a proud Queenslander. But he couldn't be happier to see the Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars head south of Tweed for the first time in 2017.
Since its inception in 2010, the All Stars match has either been played at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium or Gold Coast's Cbus Super Stadium.
The 2017 All Stars will cap off a memorable 12 months for the city of Newcastle, which in May hosted a double-header of Trans-Tasman Tests between Australia and New Zealand.
Gagai, who has played at the Knights for the past five seasons, was buoyed by potentially playing his third All Stars game at his club home ground.
"I'm obviously a proud Queenslander and I love my state but I think it's great for the game that they bring this concept to New South Wales," Gagai told NRL.com.
"The Indigenous culture and community here is massive so to be able to bring the All Stars game will be amazing for them. Not only that, Newcastle in general is a rugby league town and the fans here are unbelievable.
"We're not just representing ourselves and the team either," Gagai added.
"We're representing our people. It's just about getting around each other, uniting and showing how strong the Indigenous culture is.
"The World All Stars have gotten behind it 100 per cent too with the likes of Cameron Smith playing it and backing it. It's unbelievable the amount of support this game has had."
On the game itself, Gagai spoke of his pride when discussing his first appearance for the Indigenous All Stars.
"It's right up there for me. It's the first NRL representative team that I made and I was able to do so alongside my cousin (Titans centre) Josh Hoffman. That was a massive moment for me," Gagai said.
"I obviously do enjoy playing in the All Stars game on the weekend but the best memories I have is through the week leading up, being with the boys and learning about our culture and different communities.
"It's something everyone needs to be educated on because we have one of the strongest cultures in the world and there's not enough emphasis put on it. That's the biggest achievement I get from it, is just being able to give back to our culture."
Knights co-captain Trent Hodkinson believes representing the World All Stars also presents non-Indigenous players the chance to appreciate different cultures.
Hodkinson was originally slated to make his All Stars debut last year but was ruled out late with a knee injury.
"The All Stars is all about getting out there and giving back to the community, and then hopefully putting on a good show for them at the end of it," Hodkinson said.
"It's good for us too because we get to learn about different cultures and different communities, which is a great thing for rugby league. It brings everyone together and it's a great opportunity for Newcastle to host it now.
"They have really gotten behind us at the Knights this year and I can imagine they'll do the same with the All Stars."