You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content
Soward: The All Stars memories I'll never forget

Rooming with Preston Campbell before the 2008 Dreamtime match that kickstarted the All Stars concept and being in the circle when Greg Inglis led the Indigenous war cry in 2016 are among my most treasured memories.

With it being 10 years since the inaugural All Stars match, it's nice to be able to say I was a part of something special at the beginning.

It was that Indigenous Dreamtime versus New Zealand Maori match - played as the curtain-raiser to the opening game of the 2008 World Cup - which prompted Preston to push for the All Stars fixture.

I hadn't had much to do with Preston before the Dreamtime camp. I'd watched him while I was growing up and admired how a little guy could dominate the competition.

Indigenous All Stars v World All Stars, 2010

Rooming with Preston that week, I got to learn from him and see his passion for not only bringing the Indigenous people to the big stage but making sure it was an ongoing thing.

I remember the scenes of the teams doing their war cries. The Maori team did the Haka and we did a war dance. It got pretty hairy.

They came over halfway and I didn't know what was going to happen; our guys had spears. It's still pretty intense to watch it back. We ended up beating the Maori side in a high-scoring thriller.

All Stars: Where it all began

It's amazing to see how far it went from that game to the first All Stars match that we had on the Gold Coast in 2010 against the NRL All Stars. I was lucky enough to room with Jonathan Thurston in that camp.

We won 16-12 and I scored the winning try. Our coach Neil Henry had trusted me to be out there in the dying stages. I didn't have to do too much: JT threw me the ball and I had a clear run down the sideline. 

I had no idea how to celebrate, I think I was surprised that Michael Jennings didn't catch me.

I'd seen an image at my dad's mum's house of a man standing on a spear with his leg up, so I tried to do that. I probably should've done a shake-a-leg and been happy with that, but I was just stoked to score.

Watching back some of that footage now, I see things that I forgot about. Hugging Preston after scoring, Nathan Merritt coming over and the crowd being so behind this wonderful game that originated from the leaders in our game at the time in Presto and JT.

Maori moved by special Indigenous Welcome to Country

I was fortunate enough to play with guys like Presto, Scott Prince, JT and Sam Thaiday. The passion of the week brought us together.

Being recognised in that Indigenous environment was important to me and it's something I'll pass on to my daughter.

My father was Indigenous. After he passed away in 2005, I didn't talk to his side of the family at all so I only knew limited things about my culture. I looked into it a bit more and realised I am a proud Wiradjuri man as Dad's family originated from Condobolin.

I played in two more All Stars matches in 2011 and 2016, the year I retired. I'll never forget the crowd at Suncorp Stadium when GI rose in the middle of our circle during the war cry.

To play alongside GI, a man who not only dominated me but so many others and had such a great legacy, was a highlight.

I can't wait to watch Saturday's All Stars match back at Cbus Super Stadium. I'm expecting it to be physical: the Nines set the tone last week, it was a bit more physical than I thought it would be.

Former Indigenous stars create connections for the next generation

The Indigenous boys should be fired up from the start. The Maori side will get themselves into the game but I reckon the Indigenous team will roll on and get the win.

I'm looking forward to seeing Latrell Mitchell at fullback. It's going to take time for him to adjust - he's got to get that fullback fitness.

But having watched him play as a junior in the No.1, he'll be able to make the transition from centre. He's a superstar and a generational talent.

I don't know if the Maori team knew what to expect in their first All Stars appearance last year, especially with Kalyn Ponga at five-eighth. Now he's back at fullback and Kodi Nikorima is in the halves, maybe they'll start fast.

They've got some really big forwards they can lean on and go through the Indigenous boys.

I think it's going to be a great contest that is tight early on before we hopefully see the points flow in the second half.

Get your tickets to see the best of the NRL’s Indigenous and Mãori players going head to head at Cbus Super Stadium on February 22

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

Premier Partner

Media Partners

Major Partners

View All Partners