The ‘Mate vs Mate’ catchcry made famous in State of Origin will again come to the fore during the All Stars game when Māori hardman Jazz Tevaga squares off with fellow Warrior Josh Curran, who makes his third appearance for the Indigenous side.
Tevaga played four Tests for Samoa at the 2017 World Cup and, after recently confirming his Māori heritage, he says he can’t wait to get out there and have a crack at CommBank Stadium on February 12.
“I’ve been itching to play this game for a while and all my family back home are very proud. They can’t wait to see me go out there and do the haka,” Tevaga said on Friday from the Warriors’ Redcliffe base.
“The boys who’ve played before tell me it’s a special week and they get to reconnect with their heritage and their family ties.
“I’m very keen to get in there and learn more about our culture and represent all the Māoris back home.
“It’ll be weird taking on Joshy and his crew. Nathan Brown has already given me a little talking to and told me not to be silly if Josh is in the tackle but if he’s in there I’m going to take his head off (laughs)."
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For Brown it may be a case of ‘look away now’ when Tevaga starts launching himself at the Indigenous forwards, but the Warriors coach would nothing less from the aggressive back-rower.
“Jazz will certainly play with plenty of passion and desire. He won’t lack any hunger that’s for sure,” Brown said.
“Whether he’s playing in the backyard or at training or playing for the Warriors, he goes full on.
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“He has his body in the best shape he has ever been in from a physical point of view so it will be good from a club point of view to watch him run around in the shape he’s in.
“The biggest conversation with Jazz in the off-season was getting his body right, he’s had a few ankle problems in recent years. He probably needed to drop a few kilos but he’s really worked hard on his diet and he’s ticked all the boxes on getting himself physically right.”
Tevaga will be joined in David Kidwell’s Māori side by fellow Warriors Chanel Harris-Tavita and Kodi Nikorima while Curran is the club’s sole representative in the Indigenous side.
It may not be an easy watch for Brown as he hopes the quartet get through unscathed with the NRL season just a month away, but he says the club would never hold a player back if they wanted to represent their culture.
“The nature of our game is things can go wrong at any time but to have an elite football team you need players in your team that are of rep standard so it’s a positive that blokes are being picked,” he said.
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“At our club there’s probably a lot more to the cultural aspect with being where we are from and you add a number of Australians and Koori boys to go with all the different cultures we’ve got, it’s obviously something that’s very important to a lot of the players in our club.
“Supporting the All Stars game is the best option and the right thing to do. As a whole most of our boys want to play and all the boys that are playing have had good pre-seasons and there’s no reason for them not to play.”