3rd February 2021
Benji Marshall is set to represent his Māori culture for the first time as he was yesterday named in the NZ Māori All-Stars squad.
Marshall has been named on the bench for the Māori All-Stars with coach David Kidwell unveiling a 20-man squad looking to make it two in a row after a 30-16 win over their Indigenous counterparts last year.
Marshall has been included alongside close relative Jeremy Marshall-King who are both in line to come off the bench at Queensland Country Bank Stadium on February 20.
“When I phoned Benji and asked if he would like to represent the Indigenous Māori, you could just hear the excitement that came across the line from him,” Kidwell told NRL.com.
“And to also be able to play with Jeremy, which he’s never been able to do
before, I think that’s really important and something we did well last year.
“He’s looking forward to getting into camp and using his experience.”
Kidwell said he’ll work with the clubs to determine the amount of game time the likes of Marshall will play in the match.
Penrith playmaker Jarome Luai and premiership-winning halfback Jahrome Hughes, who faced off against each other in the grand final last year, will start in the halves.
“We’re always trying to work with NRL clubs because we understand coming from clubland,” Kidwell said.
“We’ll figure all that out but sometimes it’s hard to stop players who want to spend a lot of time on the field.
“Marshall, Luai, Raiders fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Roosters centre Joseph Manu are among 11 changes made to the Māori All-Stars squad following last year’s win.
Nicoll-Klokstad replaces Knights superstar Kalyn Ponga at the back, who underwent shoulder surgery in the off-season.
Storm recruit Reimis Smith is another bolter in the starting line-up with Raiders winger Bailey Simonsson included on the unlimited interchange bench.
Prominent Kiwi Ferns front a strong Māori All-Stars wahine squad including the likes of Raecene McGregor and Nita Maynard who missed the end of year Kiwi Ferns campaign due to Covid-19 restrictions. Former Kiwi Ferns veteran Rona Peters also makes her return to the side.
Coach Rusty Matua is unable to travel to Australia to steer the side so Keith Hanley and assistant Lisa Fiaola will take over the duties.
Despite the disruptions, Hanley has named a host of familiar personnel with NSW representatives Botille Vette-Welsh, Corban McGregor and Kennedy Cherrington included in the Māori All-Stars wahine squad.
The blockbuster doubleheader will kick off on Saturday the 20th of February at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, 10:00 pm NZDT.