Sydney Roosters centre Latrell Mitchell was given the blessing of his club to miss the World Club Challenge so he could play for the Indigenous All Stars against New Zealand Māori.
With the Harvey Norman All Stars clash in Melbourne on February 15 and the World Club Challenge against Wigan in England two days later, Mitchell was forced to choose between the two and decided to represent his family and Indigenous heritage.
While it was a tough decision for the 21-year-old NSW and Australian star, Mitchell had the support of Roosters coach Trent Robinson and club officials to make a decision he was comfortable with.
A proud Biripi man, Mitchell understands the positive impact the All Stars match has.
Due to the clash of fixtures, Mitchell is the only member of the Roosters squad who will play in the All Stars match, which will include a Māori team for the first time since the concept began in 2010.
"I'm a proud Aboriginal man but I'm also really proud to be a Sydney Rooster and this wasn't an easy decision because I'm so passionate about both teams," Mitchell told roosters.com.au.
"Obviously it's disappointing that the scheduling means I can't play both games and I'm disappointed that I won't be travelling to England with my Roosters family to play in the World Club Challenge.
"I can't wait to get amongst my culture and to rip in and represent my people in the All Stars game, and then go into the season fresh and ready to play for the Roosters.
"I know the Roosters boys are ready to go to England and rip in. I have spoken to a few of them and they have told me to go and represent my culture so I'm pretty happy with the decision I made."
Newcastle superstar Kalyn Ponga, South Sydney centre Dane Gagai, North Queensland prop Jordan McLean and Penrith front-rower James Tamou will represent the Māori despite having pledged their allegiance to Australia over New Zealand.
Tamou and Gold Coast second-rower Kevin Proctor are the only survivors from the Māori team which played the Indigenous Dreamtime team in a curtain-raiser to the opening match of the 2008 World Cup, which inspired the All Stars concept.
With Manly second-rower Joel Thompson ruled out with a calf injury, the Indigenous team do not have any remaining players from that match.
The Titans boast the highest representation of players in the Indigenous team, with Tyrone Peachey named at lock, Nathan Peats at hooker, Tyrone Roberts at halfback and Leilani Latu on the bench.
Ryan James was initially named in the team despite the Titans announcing on Thursday that he would be sidelined for two-to-three weeks with a knee injury, and has been replaced by Dragons youngster Josh Kerr. Leilani Latu is likely to move into the starting side in James's absence.
Cronulla and Tonga star Andrew Fifita is the other prop, with Brisbane's David Fifita and Canterbury's Adam Elliott in the second row.
Roberts will be partnered at the scrum-base by South Sydney five-eighth Cody Walker, with the duo part of a star-studded Indigenous backline which also includes Blake Ferguson, James Roberts, Mitchell and Josh Addo-Carr.
Ben Barba has been removed from the squad after his contract was terminated by the Cowboys on Friday night. A replacement for the controversial fullback is yet to be named.
Ponga has been chosen at five-eighth for the Māori team - the position he will play for the Knights this season.
The Māori forward pack comprises internationals who either play for Melbourne or have done in the past, with McLean and Proctor joining Storm prop Jesse Bromwich, hooker Brandon Smith and Warriors pair Adam Blair and Tohu Harris.
Besides McLean, all have played at Test level for New Zealand, while the seven-man bench included six Kiwis representatives – Joseph Tapine, James Fisher-Harris, Corey Harawira-Naera, Danny Levi, Brad Takairangi, and Gerard Beale – along with Tamou.
Gagai, who played for Australia against New Zealand and Tonga at the end of last season, was named on the wing for the Māori after choosing to represent his mother Tania’s family. He has represented his Indigenous heritage in previous All Stars matches.
Warriors utility Peta Hiku will play fullback for the Maori, with Penrith's Dean Whare and Wests Tigers star Esan Marsters in the centres and Brisbane's Jordan Kahu on the other wing.
Indigenous All Stars
1. TBA; 2. Blake Ferguson (Eels), 3. James Roberts (Broncos), 4. Latrell Mitchell (Roosters), 5. Josh Addo-Carr (Storm); 6. Cody Walker (Rabbitohs), 7. Tyrone Roberts (Titans); 8. Andrew Fifita (Sharks), 9. Nathan Peats (Titans), 10. Josh Kerr (Dragons), 11. David Fifita (Broncos), 12. Adam Elliott (Bulldogs), 13. Tyrone Peachey (Titans). Interchange: 14. Will Chambers (Storm), 15. Leilani Latu (Titans), 16. Chris Smith (Bulldogs), 17. Alex Johnston (Rabbitohs), 18. Jesse Ramien (Knights), 19. Tyrell Fuimaono (Panthers), 20. Kotoni Staggs (Broncos).
New Zealand Māori All Stars
1. Peta Hiku (Warriors); 2. Dane Gagai (Rabbitohs), 3. Esan Marsters (Wests Tigers), 4. Dean Whare (Panthers), 5. Jordan Kahu (Broncos); 6. Kalyn Ponga (Knights), 7. Jahrome Hughes (Storm); 8. Jesse Bromwich (Storm), 9. Brandon Smith (Storm), 10. Jordan McLean (Cowboys), 11. Kevin Proctor (Titans), 12. Tohu Harris (Warriors), 13. Adam Blair (Warriors). Interchange: 14. Danny Levi (Knights), 15. Brad Takairangi (Eels), 16. James Fisher-Harris (Panthers), 17. James Tamou (Panthers), 18. Gerard Beale (Warriors), 19. Corey Harawira-Naera (Bulldogs), 20. Joseph Tapine (Raiders).
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