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Bunnies give Benji all clear to star for Maori side

Benji Marshall is under consideration to make his first All Stars appearance since 2013 after South Sydney officials gave their blessing for the star playmaker to represent New Zealand Maori in the February 20 fixture.

Marshall was not included in online voting by fans as he was unsigned when the poll closed recently but the 35-year-old is eligible to play in the All Stars match in Townsville as a coach’s selection.

Despite only officially joining Souths last Friday on a one-year deal, Marshall has kept himself in good physical condition since leaving Wests Tigers at the end of last season and the Rabbitohs would be happy for him to pull on a Maori jersey for the first time in his illustrious career.

Souths coach Wayne Bennett ensured the concept had instant credibility outside the Indigenous community 11 years ago by taking charge of the NRL All Stars team for the first seven years until the introduction of the Maori team in 2019.

Marshall played under Bennett in the NRL All Stars team from the inaugural game until 2013.

Match Highlights: Indigenous v NZ Maori, RLWC 2008

The Rabbitohs have always been supportive of the match and usually boast a strong representation of players, particularly in the Indigenous All Stars team.

"If the coaching and performance staff are happy he is fit to play, we would be happy for him to play," Souths CEO Blake Solly said.

"The All Stars match is something the sport should be proud of, it celebrates two wonderful cultures and is extremely important to both the players and community."

A change of stripes for Benji

The inclusion of Marshall would be a huge boost for the All Stars match, which is expected to be played before a capacity crowd at Townsville's QCB Stadium and watched by a large television audience

It is understood the Rabbitohs will advise Maori All Stars coach David Kidwell before the teams are selected on Tuesday that Marshall would be fit enough to play 40 minutes but wouldn’t be able to play the full game.

With 20-man playing squads and unlimited interchange, Marshall could share the playmaking duties with Melbourne’s Jahrome Hughes, Penrith’s Jarome Luai or Manly’s Dylan Walker.

Marshall’s brother, Canterbury hooker Jeremy Marshall-King, is vying for the Maori dummy-half role with Storm and Kiwis star Brandon Smith.

The only other Rabbitohs player in contention for the Maori team is centre Dane Gagai, who withdrew last year to avoid choosing between his Maori and Indigenous heritages.

Sailor scores the first ever All Stars try

However, Souths are set to have a number of players involved in the All Stars match, with five-eighth Cody Walker, fullback Latrell Mitchell and winger Alex Johnston regular members of the Indigenous team.

Rabbitohs centre Braidon Burns is also under consideration for the Laurie Daley-coached Indigenous All Stars, particularly if Gagai withdraws again or pledges his allegiances to the Maori team.

All Stars men's match

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Witness the best of the best from both sides of the Tasman. As athletes and as people from the First Nations. 
Hear us. See us. 
Be there as cultures collide.

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