The NRL All Stars concept has been shaken up with a World All Stars team set to face the Indigenous side in next year’s pre-season showpiece at Suncorp Stadium.
The new team is essentially the former NRL All Stars, but rebadged with a more global spin, as organisers attempt to fix the one problem that has dogged the popular representative fixture – finding a suitable opponent for the Indigenous All Stars.
The World All Stars team will feature a minimum of four NRL players each from Australia, New Zealand and England, while the captains of each of those teams will be automatic selections for the team, which will be coached by Wayne Bennett.
The remaining players will be made up from other nations, such as Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, PNG and France, pending availability. At least one player, and a maximum of two players, will be selected from each NRL club.
NRL head of football Todd Greenberg described it as a “subtle but significant” change which will encourage the World All Stars players to embrace their heritage and ensure they’ll have as much to play for as their Indigenous counterparts.
“Even the best ideas can be improved over time,” Greenberg said.
“We want every player on the field to be able to celebrate their heritage and we believe with some of these changes, every player will.”
Former Gold Coast Titans great Preston Campbell, the architect of the All Stars concept, warmly endorsed the move.
“In the past, (only) the Indigenous side always felt like they had a link to the jersey,” Campbell said.
“I think now with this World All Stars, players coming from different countries they’ll feel like they’ve got a link to their heritage or culture.”
Bennett also welcomed the change, albeit conceding it will make it even tougher for him to pick a side.
“We’ve had a bit of a look at it and we think we can make it work,” he said.
“We’re not going to take players out of England, they’re all in the NRL somewhere. They’ll be NRL players. I think it’s a great innovation.”
The NRL All Stars clash is slated for February 13 and will be held at Suncorp Stadium, which hosted for the fixture for the first time back in 2013.