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A couple of big-name NRLW playmakers face missing out on a spot in the Māori women’s team for next month’s Harvey Norman NRL All Stars, as coach Keith Hanley grapples with several tough decisions at the selection table.

The veteran mentor says the expansion of the NRL Telstra Women’s Premiership from six to 10 teams last season, along with the continued growth of Māori age-group tournaments in New Zealand, have been big factors in his overall player pool growing from around 60 to 150 during his four-year stint in charge of the side.

Ahead of this year’s event in Townsville on February 16, the Māori are also boosted by the availability of frontline stars Raecene McGregor, Corban Baxter, Botille Vette-Welsh and Kennedy Cherrington, who all missed the 2023 game.

That creates a logjam in the halves, with McGregor now competing for a spot against incumbents Zahara Temara and Ashleigh Quinlan.

At fullback the loss of last year’s Trish Hina Medal winner Gayle Broughton, who is recovering from back surgery, will be somewhat softened by having Baxter and Vette-Welsh back in the mix, with Hanley still to decide if or how he fits the latter two into his 17.

“We have got some real quality and depth this year and that part has been mind-blowing,” Hanley told

“The quality of player is rising all the time and it’s been really eye opening for me after coaching All Stars for the last three years.

“We have a notable loss with Gayle which is unfortunate, but we are lucky to have Corban and Bo.

“Corban has had to play her last two games for us (in 2022 and 2021) at centre, which is probably not her best position, so with Gayle out that gives Corban an opportunity to run out the back and do what she does for the Roosters.”

Meanwhile Hanley is also keeping an open mind about blooding some younger players who are yet to appear at NRLW level or earn a cap for the Māori side, with the concept proving a valuable springboard for female players in the past.

Last year interchange hooker Capri Paekau and front-rower Harata Butler went on to debut in the NRLW with the Eels and Sharks respectively after helping their side down the Indigenous 16-12 in Rotorua, while Kahu Cassidy and Aaliyah Paki got their first opportunity to play on such a big stage.

“We have got a couple of new faces in mind, but they are pretty young and with the quality coming back in to our team it might make it hard to fit them in,” Hanley said.

“Within our wider group we have Taleenza Nelson who is at Cronulla and is a strong outside back, along with Tiana-Lee Thorne from the Wests Tigers (both are on development deals for 2024) who is a back that is incredibly fast,” Hanley said.

“The game comes at a good time for players to lift their profile and get their names out there and this is the only elite women’s game between now and Origin [in May].”

See the ultimate celebration of culture and showcase of pride at NRL Harvey Norman All Stars. Grab your tickets here.