Jamie Soward is looking forward to All Stars matches for years to come after indigenous players were assured the concept will not be scrapped.
The indigenous half says queries about the showcase event’s future are now a “non-question” after ARL Commission chairman John Grant told players its contract would be renewed.
The future of the All Stars game had come under a cloud due to a perceived lack of interest.
The All Stars game on the Gold Coast in 2015 reportedly suffered a $500,000 loss, adding to speculation the NRL would consider its options when its two-game contract with the Queensland government to host the event expired this year.
But Soward said on Thursday: “It’s a non-question – the game won’t be lost.
“We had John Grant speak at a function last night and he was very confident that the game is not up for discussion. We are going to enter into a new contract.
“As far as we are concerned, the game will hopefully be around for at least the next five, 10, 15 years.”
There was speculation the All Stars may be held later in the season due to the stunning financial success of NRL Auckland Nines, which last weekend kicked off the season for a third straight year.
But Soward says he still considers the All Stars the traditional season opener.
“The Nines is a great concept, but it’s not really rugby league,” the Penrith half said.
“It’s like the Sevens. The Sevens doesn’t get compared to the Rugby World Cup or the Super 15s.
“The Indigenous All Stars game really kicks off the NRL season.”
Soward said it would be “shattering” if the All Stars game disappeared, considering the awareness of indigenous issues it raised in the community.
“The importance of the week has really sunk in now I am a little bit older,” Soward said.
And he believes the tight-knit indigenous team will have the edge over the World All Stars.
“Definitely. The World All Stars are coming in and just seeing it as a game,” he said.
“Our team … realise how important it is not just for the NRL but also the indigenous people and players. It is a privilege.”