New Zealand Sport and Recreation Minister Grant Robertson has thrown his support behind calls for the All Stars concept to be taken across the Tasman Sea in a move which would ensure ongoing Maori representation.
All Stars founder Preston Campbell said after the historic clash between the Indigenous and Maori teams in Melbourne that he would like to see the match played in New Zealand and it is believed up to three venues have already expressed interest in hosting the match.
The concept, which now includes a women’s match, is expected to move to Queensland for the next two seasons, with at least one match during that period to be played at the new North Queensland Stadium in Townsville, but Robertson said he would like New Zealand to host All Stars in the future.
“I think the All Stars double-header is an excellent way to celebrate both our indigenous cultures, and the history and heroes of this great sport,” Robertson told NRL.com.
“I’m also excited to see the inclusion of a women’s All Stars match, which is a great way to celebrate and improve the visibility of women’s rugby league.
“It’s a matter for the New Zealand Rugby League, but I’m sure I’m one of many fans around the country who would love to see this double-header played in Aotearoa.”
The backing of the New Zealand government should ensure the continued involvement of the Maori team in the All Stars match as it is understood their inclusion is not guaranteed beyond 2020.
It was widely agreed after the Indigenous team’s 34-14 win that the introduction of the Maori team had taken the All Stars concept to a new level because of the passion displayed by both teams for their cultures.
New Zealand Maori Rugby League chief executive John Devonshire said there was interest in hosting the match in New Zealand and he was confident All Stars would be a success if taken across the Tasman.
“It would be an outstanding opportunity for New Zealand and I am sure we could get assistance and funding to make it happen,” Devonshire said.
“I think there is a lot we can learn from each other’s cultures and I would love to take the Indigenous team to one of our te reo Maori schools, where all that is spoken is Maori language, and give them the experience of staying at or visiting a marae.”
Meanwhile, Indigenous All Stars captain Cody Walker said he was pleased his comments about the national anthem performed before the match had sparked debate.
Walker said the players had not intended to draw attention to the anthem but most felt uncomfortable singing Advance Australia Fair.
The South Sydney playmaker said he had received a mixed reaction after telling a post-match press conference: “It doesn’t represent myself or my family”.
“I think it is very important that everyone has the right to have an opinion, and that is my opinion and one that myself and my family are really big on,” Walker said.
“The opinions that really matter are those of my dad and my brothers and my immediate family, and my dad is really, really proud of the way I handled myself with that sort of question.
“I thought I answered it really, really truthfully and it is one of those things that has created a great conversation.
“I didn’t go into the game thinking that those sort of issues were going to come out and I don’t know where it is going to take us but hopefully somewhere positive.”