Rugby League All Stars: Five key points
The Indigenous All Stars were a perfect two from two on Friday night as their men and women proved too strong for their World All Stars rivals in Newcastle.
Indigenous defence as good as it gets
A star-studded women's World All Stars side was expected to flex their attacking muscles against their Indigenous rivals on Friday night. But any thoughts of that happening were quickly put to bed as the Indigenous All Stars showed a resolve in defence that would have had their coach Dean Widders brimming with pride. Every time the World All Stars looked to have the numbers they were thwarted by a spirited defensive line that made the right decision time and time again. Whether they slid, jammed in or let the play come to them, the Indigenous women repelled their opponents with brick wall defence that frustrated their opponents into uncharacteristic errors. Not even superstar fullback Sam Bremner could get her side on the front foot with the Indigenous All Stars seemingly always in her face on the back of outstanding kick-chase pressure. And while they conceded a try with the final play of the game, they produced some monster shots in defence that wouldn't have looked out of place in the old 'Big Hits' segment on the Sunday Footy Show.
Johnathan Thurston confirms 'best in the business' tag
If you've been living under a rock for the past decade then we've got a newsflash for you: Johnathan Thurston is really good at rugby league. The Indigenous All Star was a cut above on Friday night, confirming his status as the best player in the world as he took home his second Preston Campbell Medal as best on ground. The Cowboys halfback capped off an exhilarating move to start the second half that saw Bevan French streak away down the left touchline before bending a kick back towards the posts for JT to touch down. That was just one of the many highlights on a night that saw Thurston dominate the World All Stars for the 60 minutes he was on the field. His kick to set up Dane Gagai in the second half was as good as it gets, as Thurston split several defenders with a pinpoint chip to land on his teammate's chest. NSW fans must be relieved he only has one more year left in Origin.
The fend is back
Jamie Soward probably still has nightmares about the fend he received from Greg Inglis in Round 1 of the 2009 season, and now Tepai Moeroa and David Mead have joined the long list of would-be defenders who have been put on their backs by the Rabbitohs custodian. After receiving a ball from Andrew Fifita 25 metres out from his own line, Inglis toyed with the defence before he sent Moeroa to the canvas with a brutal right-arm shove and then did the same to Mead before eventually being brought down. A fully-fit Inglis is one of the scariest sights in rugby league, and if his form on Friday night was anything to go by, there will be many more players struggling to get to sleep by the end of the season.
David Mead a fullback indeed
While the rest of his teammates struggled to trouble the defensive line, World All Stars fullback David Mead was a shining light at the back in a dominant display that will have Broncos fans genuinely excited about his first season in Brisbane. While new skipper Darius Boyd has a mortgage on the club's No.1 jersey, Mead showed more than enough to suggest he will be an excellent replacement during the representative period. His tenacity got him over the line for the World All Stars' first try of the evening, while he constantly poked his nose through the line with piercing runs and powerful fends.
Croker injury not structural
Raiders fans – and rugby league supporters in general – were quick to show their love and support on social media after Raiders skipper Jarrod Croker was forced from the field midway through the third quarter with a left leg injury. The World All Star was caught in an awkward tackle and had to be helped from the ground by two trainers. While it's too early to know the full extent of the injury, any time on the sidelines would be a cruel blow for one of the game's most popular stars. Croker has played at least 21 games in each of his eight seasons since making his NRL debut back in 2009. With the Raiders on track to push for a premiership this season, it would be heartbreaking for their skipper to not be involved, but All Stars coach Mal Meninga said after the game that there wasn't any structural damage, pointing to a shorter stint on the sidelines.