The Indigenous All Stars concept is too important for it to be squeezed out of an increasingly packed NRL pre-season, says Brisbane veteran Sam Thaiday.
But like just about everyone else, he doesn’t have a clue where it best fits into the rugby league calendar.
“It’s the same conversation we have every year, at the start of the year,” said a bemused Thaiday.
“How do we fix it? No idea.
“I just show up and do the best I can in whatever jersey I have on.
“Hopefully the powers that be can sit down and figure out a way where we’re not putting so much loading on players.”
NRL head of football Todd Greenberg sent tongues wagging on the weekend when he admitted the All Stars match, which has run for five of the last six years, has an uncertain future.
Greenberg conceded he had to “do some thinking” about when it is played, if it’s indeed played again, with more players pulling out on Monday as a congested pre-season also featuring the NRL Auckland Nines and the World Club Series continues to take its toll.
The All Stars team have been decimated, with calf injuries to captain Paul Gallen and crowd favourite Roger Tuivasa-Sheck forcing them to withdraw along with North Queensland’s Antonio Winterstein.
Beau Scott, Konrad Hurrell and Matthew Wright will replace them, while Ryan Hoffman is in for Warriors captain Simon Mannering, who last week announced he would be staying with his wife in New Zealand after the birth of their second child.
The Indigenous side, meanwhile, have lost South Sydney duo Chris Grevsmuhl and Alex Johnston, with David Fifita and Leilani Latu taking their spots.
Hoffman said his Warriors teammate Tuivasa-Sheck’s injury was legitimate, having pushed through a calf strain during the final of the Nines.
“It was really good for him to do that for club but that’s the sacrifice he made,” Hoffman said.
But, like Thaiday, Hoffman doesn’t hold the answer to the All Stars conundrum.
“Thankfully, I’m not in charge of making those decisions,” he said.
Thaiday said the NRL simply has to find a place for the All Stars match, and is confident “some aspect” of the concept will linger.
One option to reinvigorate the match is to take it outside of south-east Queensland and to places like Townsville, which would guarantee a “dead set sellout”, said Thaiday.
“There’d be people hanging off the lights to see the game,” he said.
“Who knows where this game can go?
“We kind of have set a benchmark now and it will continue, in some way, shape or form.
“It does a lot of work in the communities, gives a lot of hope and lets a lot of young indigenous kids dream to be bigger, greater and get out of certain situations.
“That is the most important thing about this game – not the 80 minutes on the Saturday.”