10 April 2024

As seen on nrl.com

Five years into his time with the Storm and with just 81 minutes of NRL to his name, Jack Howarth knows it’s easy for people to “believe what you can’t see” but has shrugged off any suggestions of an attitude problem holding back his development.

A long-time star in the making, Melbourne fans were given just their second glimpse of the teenage prodigy after he was injected into Craig Bellamy’s forward pack against the Broncos – five years after starring in the 2019 Australian Schoolboys alongside the likes of Reece Walsh, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Sam Walker.

With several of his former teammates already playing well over 50 NRL games, many reports have speculated reasons for Howarth’s limited opportunity in first grade, but the aspiring back-rower is confident 2024 will put the rumours to rest.

“I don’t know where that came from. I haven’t ever really been late or got in trouble for things for me to have attitude about,” Howarth told NRL.com.

“I never saw the comments, I just got told about it but it is what it is. I haven’t played much so it’s easy for people to believe whatever they hear.

“Maybe at school I had attitude at times but not in the footy world, I’m way too scared of Belza [Craig Bellamy] to try and upset him.

“Hopefully I get more opportunity to get out there on the field to show the player that I am.”

Standing at 193cm tall and now an imposing 105kg, the Māori All Star is blessed with a natural frame for a footballer but said developing his rugby league IQ has been the focus over the past few seasons.

“I’ve had to learn a lot more technical stuff about the game. Obviously throughout my juniors I was pretty naturally athletic and mobile,” Howarth said.

“But nailing down my role as a back-rower and understanding all of the little techniques is almost more important than being mobile and athletic.

“I was a bit raw through my juniors, I was always good at running and stuff but I think over the last year and a bit, I’ve really come to understand that it’s not just about that – it’s really important to understand the purpose of things.

As seen on nrl.com

Broncos playmaker Gayle Broughton is building up to a return to running after undergoing surgery just prior to Christmas to fix a painful back injury. Hailing from Hāwera Taranaki, Broughton is a Māori All Star and Olympic medallist having played for the Black Fern 7s from 2012-2021 before switching codes to rugby league.

The 27-year-old played the entire 2023 NRLW season with a L4–L5 disc bulge in her lower back that was pressing against nerves, which was only diagnosed at the conclusion of the campaign.

Sleepless nights, the feeling of a knife being run through her leg whenever she’d walk and a subsequently huge mental toll all contributed to what Gayle Broughton describes as a season from hell last year.

The Broncos NRLW star played through excruciating pain at times throughout 2023, with what she later discovered was a L4–L5 disc bulge in her lower back that was pressing against nerves.

Now on the slow road back to running, the 27-year-old told NRL.com about the life-changing injury, the long layoff following a lower lumber discectomy in late December and the period when she considered retiring from the game altogether.

“It’s been a real eye opener for me, having to learn how to move my body again and be OK with moving it again and learning to trust it,” Broughton said.

“It has been a long and lonely road at times. The biggest thing was how delusional I was to the [post-surgery] process itself. I’ve had ACL surgery and shoulder reconstructions and in my brain I thought it would be a recovery like that.

“But for the four weeks after surgery you basically can not move, you’re on your back and can’t do anything.

“I wouldn’t wish this injury on my worst enemy. It felt like a hot knife going down your leg every step you took. I couldn’t sleep more than two hours at most before I’d wake up in so much pain.

“Not only did it take a physical toll, but it took the most toll on me mentally because I wasn’t sleeping and wasn’t recovering properly.”

Having always struggled with minor back pain throughout her career, Broughton knew something was different when she started to feel the injury in Brisbane’s season-opener against the Roosters last year but attempted to push through it.

But with each passing week it got worse and by Round 3 the former New Zealand rugby sevens star couldn’t even manage a jog at training.

Remarkably she played on and was part of the Broncos’ eventual semi-final loss to the Knights, getting through the campaign with “mental grit and a desire not to let the team down”, but by the end of the season the full extent of the injury was starting to become clear.

What followed was three months spent mostly laid up at home before finally having surgery three days before Christmas.

“That semi-final against the Knights was a low point. I just couldn’t take it anymore and felt like I couldn’t give anything to the team,” Broughton said.

“October to December I couldn’t run, couldn’t walk, for want of a better term life was s**t’. I couldn’t do anything and it was hell.

“I thought about retirement so much, but I said ‘this can’t be the end’.

“But now I am so excited for what’s ahead. I’ve got a new back and I’m not going to take it for granted.”

Broughton is hopeful of returning to some boxing work soon ahead of getting back to running and is confident she’ll be available for the start of the 2024 NRL Telstra Women’s Premiership.

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As seen on NRL.com

Kiwi Ferns legend Honey Hireme-Smiler will be part of the Sky Sport commentary team that breaks new ground with unique bilingual commentary on this week’s All Stars games in Townsville.

One of the greatest players to ever pull on a Kiwi Ferns jumper, Hireme-Smiler played 32 Tests and went to four World Cups, and now she finds herself on the other side of the microphone.

“I’m thrilled to see Sky creating innovative ways to foster use and acceptance of reo Māori. This will be a new and unique opportunity for the commentary team, and we are so ready to deliver an awesome immersive experience for New Zealanders,” said Hireme-Smiler.

Sky Sport’s collaboration with the NRL for 2024 kicks off with the two showpiece All Stars games in Townsville this weekend.

Sky Sport has been steadily increasing the use of te reo Māori, but bilingual commentary is another first for the company, highlighting Sky’s dedication to foster cultural diversity and support the normalisation of te reo Māori on air.

Coverage on Sky Sport 1 will be available through Sky, streaming on Sky Sport Now and free to view on Sky Open with an alternative Australian Fox Sport commentary available on Sky Sport 4 or by using the alternative commentary via the yellow button.

The Harvey Norman All Stars will be presented by veteran Māori broadcaster, Te Arahi Maipi (Tainui) with bilingual commentary provided by Dale Husband (Ngāti Maru), Te Aorere Pēwhairangi (Ngāti Porou) and Honey Hireme-Smiler (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Haua, Tainui)

Pre and post-match panel discussions will be led Maipi who will be joined by Warriors captain, Tohu Harris (Ngāti Kahungunu) and Hireme-Smiler.

The success of incorporating te reo Māori into sport coverage was proven during last year’s Harvey Norman All Stars game, reaching more than 100,000 viewers were covered by Te Aorere Pēwhairangi on social media.

As seen on NRL.com

Issac Luke is on the verge of making a shock comeback with the Māori side in next month’s Harvey Norman NRL All Stars, which would see him take the field on the one-year anniversary of his father’s passing.

Despite not playing in the NRL since 2020, the 36-year-old hooker has just completed a full pre-season with Queensland Cup side Souths Logan, after he returned with them for the back end of last season and appeared in three games.

Luke had just arrived home from his week as an assistant coach with the Māori All Stars last February when he found out his dad, George, had passed away following a slip that occurred during Cyclone Gabrielle in New Zealand.

In the months which followed, Luke decided to give top-level football another go as a way to honour George and in recent times he’s been in regular contact with new Māori coach Adam Blair about a comeback for the event in Townsville on February 16.

“If I was to get the chance, I’d be playing for my dad. The game falls on the day he died last year,” Luke told NRL.com.

“I am the second oldest of his children and I spoke to my dad every week, so not being able to have that, it’s tough.

“If I do get the green light [to play] I don’t know how I will handle the occasion… but I am blessed even to be considered.

“[Physically] I’ll be good, I have got through the pre-season with the Magpies (Souths Logan) and have passed everything I needed to.”

Luke descends from the Ngāruahine iwi in southern Taranaki and previously represented the Māori in 2020 and 2021, at the back end of his 286-game NRL career.

Having played numerous Tests alongside him for the Kiwis, before later linking up with him at the Warriors and with the Māori All Stars, Blair knows better than most what Luke can do for a team.

“’Bully’ [Luke] brings players together; he carries a lot of mana from his experience and what he has done in the game,” Blair told NRL.com.

“He’s someone that wears his heart on his sleeve and understands how much it means to be Māori and what this represents.

“To have someone like him around the camp, whether that be as a player or staff, is invaluable to the group.

“He will never let you down, but he will know if he is ready or not.”

After watching Luke progress throughout the pre-season, Souths Logan coach Karmichael Hunt believes the former Kiwi international still has what it takes to play at an elite level, despite his 37th birthday coming up this May.

“No doubt, if he was given an opportunity, he would be able to still do a job at that level,” Hunt told NRL.com.

“You don’t lose your footy nous and ability to think your way through a contest and Bully still picks our defence apart at training; he is as crafty as can be with the ball.

“He’s in really good condition…. he’s had a full pre-season and is looking really good.”

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

As seen on NRL.com

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 NRL.com.

“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.

25th January 2023

The first ever NRL Harvey Norman All Stars in New Zealand will feature Premiership and representative stars alongside some of the best up-and-coming talent in the men’s and women’s games, as the NRL today announced the teams for the showcase at Rotorua International Stadium on Saturday 11 February.

The home crowd will see Māori superstars including Joseph Manu, James Fisher-Harris, Joseph Tapine and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, up against visiting Indigenous All Stars including Latrell Mitchell, Josh Addo-Carr, Nicho Hynes and Selwyn Cobbo.

The Harvey Norman Women’s All Stars will feature Māori stars including Kennedy Cherrington, Zahara Temara and Olivia Kernick, taking on an Indigenous line-up that includes the likes of Shaylee Bent, Caitlan Johnston and Jaime Chapman.

The women’s and men’s matches will follow a curtain-raiser between the Māori and Indigenous All Stars Touch Football teams.

Tickets are available from NZD$40 for adults and NZD$85 for families via nrl.com/tickets.



Maori All Stars (Men)

Jesse Arthars

Daejarn Asi

Nelson Asofa-Solomona

Zach Dockar-Clay

James Fisher-Harris

Corey Harawira-Naera

Morgan Harper

Royce Hunt

Joseph Manu

Zane Musgrove

Briton Nikora

Hayze Perham

Adam Pompey

Jordan Rapana

Jordan Riki

Joseph Tapine

Starford Toa

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves

Dylan Walker

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak

Coach: Ben Gardiner

Indigenous All Stars (Men)

Josh Addo-Carr

Bailey Butler

Selwyn Cobbo

Tyrell Fuimaono

J’maine Hopgood

Nicho Hynes

Ryan James

Josh Kerr

Ezra Mam

Latrell Mitchell

Shaquai Mitchell

Kierran Moseley

Brent Naden

Tyrone Peachey

Tyrell Sloan

Chris Smith

Will Smith

Jamayne Taunoa-Brown

Cody Walker

Jack Wighton

Coach: Ronald Griffiths




Maori All Stars (Women)

Brooke Anderson

Destiny Brill

Gayle Broughton

Harata Butler

Kahu Cassidy

Kennedy Cherrington

Laikha Clarke

Zali Fay

Mya Hill-Moana

Olivia Kernick

Shannon Mato

Capri Paekau

Aaliyah Paki

Shanice Parker

Ashleigh Quinlan

Tiana Raftstrand-Smith

Jasmin Strange

Zahara Temara

Kailey Thompson

Amy Turner

Coach: Keith Hanley



Indigenous All Stars (Women)

Essay Banu

Shaylee Bent

Jaime Chapman

Bree Chester

Kirra Dibb

Quincy Dodd

Taliah Fuimaono

Tallisha Harden

Caitlan Johnston

Keilee Joseph

Bobbi Law

Mia Middleton

Sareka Mooka

Jasmine Peters

Kaitlyn Phillips

Shaniah Power

Jada Taylor

Tahlulah Tillett

Coach: Ben Jeffries


All Stars matches will be broadcast live on the Nine Network, Fox League, Kayo and Sky Sport NZ.

19 January 2023

Adam Blair knows from personal experience the significance of wearing the Māori jersey and wants to see a full house for the NRL Harvey Norman All Stars: Māori v Indigenous clash in Rotorua in February.

The former Kiwi and NZ Māori player and fellow former Kiwi league star, Isaac Luke, were recently announced as assistant coaches, alongside head coach Benny Gardiner, for the Māori All Stars.

Blair who hails from Te Tai Tokerau, played for 14 years in the NRL and has worn both the Kiwi and Māori jerseys says he is looking forward to returning to Rotorua, this time as assistant coach. Both he and Luke played for the Kiwis in the one-off test against Tonga in Rotorua in 2009.

“First and foremost, I’m really privileged and honoured to be named as an assistant coach. From afar, I have always wanted to be a part of it, once I had finished up playing. I’ve played a couple of times for the Māori All Stars and I really loved my time back then.

“But for me now [as an assistant coach], it is actually the most nervous I have been in a long time because it has become a reality to coach, and to coach Māori at this level is what I have always wanted to do.”

Blair is encouraging Rotorua locals to get behind the event and come support all the teams taking part, especially the Indigenous All Stars.

“It’s a great opportunity to bring this game home and display our people, our culture and what it means to us. I know the Indigenous All Stars are really excited to come over as well and experience our culture.”

New Zealand Māori Rugby League chairman John Devonshire says the Harvey Norman NRL All-Stars will “kick 2023 off in a positive light”.

The exciting clash of cultures between New Zealand Māori and the Australian Indigenous men’s and women’s teams is happening on Saturday, 11 February 2023, at the Rotorua International Stadium.

It will be the first time the event will take place outside of Australia, and Devonshire says Rotorua was the perfect location.

“You could ask any league player or supporter from Rotorua the significance of having a game like this in Rotorua. It’s a great opportunity and a game of this magnitude is good for the city.

Devonshire, whose whakapapa is Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa says the recent appointments of Blair and Luke showed that New Zealand Māori Rugby League was looking to the future.

“There are no more passionate Māori warriors than these two and they will soak it up and they will learn. The other beauty of Benny’s appointment is that they will learn from Benny and, in terms of a succession plan, they are it.”

Coaches for the Māori women’s indigenous team are Keith Hanley (Ngāpuhi) assisted by John Strange (Ngāpuhi), who was with the Sydney Roosters NRLW, and manager Stephaine Spooner (Ngāti Kahungunu).

Prior to the kick-off of the main event between the Aotearoa New Zealand Māori versus Australian Indigenous All Stars, fans will be treated to a mixed touch game between the Māori All Stars and Australian Indigenous All Stars as well as a league clash between the New Zealand Māori Women and the Australian Indigenous Women’s All Stars.

Details can be found here.

Gates open at 1.15pm and the main game kicks-off at 5.45pm. Tickets are on sale now at Ticketmaster click here.

July 18, 2022

In a momentous constitutional meeting following New Zealand Rugby League’s (NZRL) AGM, overdue constitutional changes have been passed to elevate Aotearoa NZ Māori Rugby League (ANZMRL) to full voting member status.

Furthermore, the Chair of ANZMRL now has a permanent and dedicated seat on NZRL’s Board.

These historic constitutional changes result from ongoing efforts to deepen and better honour the partnership between NZRL and ANZMRL.

Previously, ANZMRL has been an Associate Member of NZRL. As such, did not have a vote or any other governance status within NZRL other than attending the AGM. NZRL’s Constitution also made no mention of Te Tiriti or tikanga Māori.

This in no way honoured ANZMRL’s long-standing history and influence on the game or embraced the partnership that should have existed between the two entities for some time now.

ANZMRL has a long and proud history dating back to the start of rugby league in New Zealand. The first national Māori team was assembled in 1908, and in October 1934, the original New Zealand Māori Rugby League Control Board formed in Huntly.

ANZMRL has continued to grow and flourish over the past 19 years, developing into a leading Māori community sport entity in Aotearoa. The kaupapa of celebrating being Māori, as Māori, for Māori, by Māori using Māori Rugby League as the vehicle, is widely acknowledged.

NZRL’s Constitution will now be amended to uphold the mana of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the principles of Partnership, Protection and Participation and to promote, support and foster te iwi Māori mo ona tikanga.

“Better honouring bi-cultural governance, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and the role and influence Māori rugby league has on our game is long overdue,” says NZRL CEO Greg Peters.

“It is a great feeling to be able to formally recognise the incontrovertible role ANZMRL plays in our game and make meaningful constitutional changes to honour and respect that role.

“Personally, I have found this process one of the most rewarding outcomes of my sports administration career. Working with JD and his team to fully understand the significant contribution ANZMRL make to our game both historically and in recent years has been invaluable.”

“Ki te kotahi te kakaho ka whati, ki te kapuia e kore e whatiAlone we can be broken, standing together we are invincible,” says Chairman of ANZMRL John Devonshire.

“A tremendous initiative that some may say is well overdue,” he adds.

“Nevertheless, it is happening today, and for that, we as a Māori rugby league whanau are grateful and acknowledge the current NZRL officials that have been brave enough and sincere about recognising the part Māori play in the game.

“It is in times like this you reflect on those tupuna (ancestors) who set the kaupapa on its haerenga (journey) many years ago, all those whānau that have contributed to our Māori rugby league kaupapa, over the past 114 years.

“It is right that our tamariki mokopuna have an environment to aspire to and that they feel appreciated and valued for the next 114 years. For this historic occasion, we simply say thank you.”

The Australian Rugby League Commission today confirmed Rotorua as the venue for the 2023 All Stars, the first time the concept will be played outside Australia.

The 2023 contest, to be played at Rotorua International Stadium and featuring men’s and women’s matches, will land on New Zealand shores for the 12th All Stars fixture – and the fifth between the Māori All Stars and the Indigenous All Stars.

The announcement was made this morning by NRL CEO Andrew Abdo, alongside Rotorua Lakes Council, Te Arawa and Indigenous Australia representatives including Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council Chair Katrina Fanning at Te Puia, the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute, Rotorua.

ARLC Chairman Peter V’landys AM said the Commission understood the enormity of Aotearoa New Zealand being able to host the Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars event.

“The All Stars game is incredibly special and important to us, and it’s only just we share it with our New Zealand friends,” Mr V’landys said.

“The Māori All Stars versus Indigenous All Stars game has advanced so much since its inception in 2019 and playing in New Zealand will only continue this rapid growth.”

NRL Chief Executive Andrew Abdo said the event would benefit communities in the Rotorua region and more broadly in New Zealand.

“All Stars brings communities and culture together perhaps like no other week in our calendar. Knowing how important Rotorua is to Māori culture, we are excited to work with the community on becoming the first Aotearoa New Zealand location to host the event,” Mr Abdo said.

“The 2023 All Stars game will coincide with the 50-year anniversary of the first Indigenous Rugby League tour of New Zealand, and will also be 50 years since Arthur Beetson became the first Indigenous athlete to captain Australia.”

Chair of New Zealand Māori Rugby League, John Devonshire, said it was the highest echelon for Māori sport to aspire to. In the last five years it’s always been about bringing the game and people back home.

“It’s a great opportunity for us as Māori, for Te Arawa and Rotorua as hau kainga and tangata whenua. We want to give the Indigenous team an opportunity to enjoy our culture. It’s a community effort, and we want to invite the whole community, and what better place in Aotearoa to do it?

“Rotorua has become the destination of choice for a number of reasons – geographically for its location, we have great relationships with the people, and the facilities are second to none. We are so unbelievably grateful for what Rotorua Lakes Council are doing to host this game at Rotorua International Stadium.”

Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council Chair Katrina Fanning said: “The impact of all 11 of our previous All Stars matches has been vast, both for Indigenous communities and more recently for Maori communities.

“To be able to bring this game to New Zealand will connect the cultural growth and education with so many more people, which is what we strive for each year.”

Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick said All Stars was a significant event for New Zealand and Rotorua.

“This is more than just a game, this is about celebrating our culture, and we feel privileged that Rotorua will be the first place to host the NRL All Stars games in Aotearoa, New Zealand,” Mayor Chadwick said.

“We welcome national and international manuhiri with open arms, to share in the excitement that these games will bring.”

Te Arawa representative, Sir Toby Curtis, said All Stars was a wonderful opportunity for Rotorua.

“I think when it comes to having international relations, especially for Māori, it is ideal that Rotorua be seen as a centre for Māori Rugby League,” Sir Curtis said.

“We are at a stage where people are starting to visit our shores again. We’ve got to become more internationally conscious because the future relies on how we relate to the rest of the world – not just Aotearoa, New Zealand.”

The 2023 NRL Harvey Norman All Stars will feature the women’s and men’s Indigenous and Māori teams. Tickets will be on sale later this year.

The All Stars matches will be broadcast live on the Nine Network, Fox League, Kayo Sports, Sky Sport New Zealand and Watch NRL.

02 February 2022

The Māori All-Stars have named a star-studded line-up led by Dally M Prop of the Year, Premiership winner, and Kiwi #801 James Fisher-Harris. Jayden Nikorima was also named, completing a redemption story that saw him last play first-grade rugby league back in 2017.

It’s a family affair as Jayden is set to line up alongside his brother and Kiwi international Kodi Nikorima (Kiwi #793).

Although injury and suspension have forced changes to each team, this year’s matchup features a diverse array of experience and exciting young talent.

Kiwi #818 Briton Nikora retains his place alongside Cronulla teammate Royce Hunt. The Shire-based team boasts the most participants in the All-Star contest with seven, including Nico Hynes, Will Kennedy, Jesse Ramien, Braydon Trindall, and Andrew Fifita, who will line for the Indigenous team.

The Canberra pairing of Joseph Tapine (Kiwi #800) and Jordan Rapana (Kiwi #798) return, as well as the experienced duo of Kenny Bromwich (Kiwi #796) and Kevin Proctor (Kiwi #771). Esan Marsters is again included in the squad while Warrior’s Jazz Tevaga adds to the big-name power of the Māori outfit, playing in his debut All-Star game.

This year’s contest will also feature debuts from Chanel Harris-Tavita, Morgan Harper, Erin Clark and Reimis Smith, all selected in Kiwis 2021 wider squad. Another player named in the wider squad, Patrick Herbert will be making consecutive appearances for the Māori team.

Head coach David Kidwell has also named Porirua’s exciting powerhouse TC Robati, making his first appearance in the green and white jersey.

Kidwell spoke on the squad, “I’m so thankful to have a group of players who are honoured to represent their culture.”

“This is such an important week for the game, and our players recognise this. They will all do what they can to represent themselves, their whanau and their iwi.”

Both teams clash on February 12th at Sydney’s CommBank Stadium. Catch all the action live on SkySport.

Māori All Stars team:

Briton Nikora (Kiwi #818)

Chanel Harris-Tavita

Dylan Walker

Erin Clark

Esan Marsters (Kiwi #809)

James Fisher-Harris (Kiwi #801)

Jayden Nikorima

Jazz Tevaga

Jordan Rapana (Kiwi #798)

Joseph Tapine (Kiwi #800)

Kenny Bromwich (Kiwi #796)

Kevin Proctor (Kiwi #771)

Kodi Nikorima (Kiwi #793)

Morgan Harper

Pasami Saulo

Patrick Herbert

Reimis Smith

Royce Hunt

TC Robati

Tuku Hau Tapuha

02 February 2022

Māori All-Stars Head Coach, Keith Hanley, has called upon both experienced and fresh Kiwi Ferns to make a solid All-Stars spine in their bid to go back to back against the Indigenous All Stars Women next Saturday.

Kiwi Fern Captain Krystal Rota is a notable inclusion as she’s joined by her Newcastle and Kiwi Fern teammates, Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly, and Katelyn Vaha’akolo, both set to make their debuts in the green and white and NRLW this season.

Bay of Plenty rugby union convert Autumn-Rain Stephens enjoyed a meteoric rise after only switching to rugby league in 2020. During her inaugural Test against Fetu Samoa, Stephens stole the show, earning herself the 2020 Kiwi Fern Rookie of the Year.

Former Upper Central Stallion Mya Hill-Moana returns to the squad after debuting for the All-Stars in 2020, while Hanley calls on the experience of Kiwi Fern talents; Raecene McGregor, Nita Maynard and Rona Peters.

Former Manurewa Marlin, Jocephy Daniels was the youngest player to lead the NZ Māori Wāhine Toa side when they took on the Australian Indigenous in Sydney in 2018. Earning an Eels call up for the NRLW, she’s also set to make her debut for the Māori All-Stars next Saturday.

“I’m knowledgeable about the Māori culture, and so I want to help share that culture with the Australian-based girls to give them another perspective.” – Jocephy Daniels.

The match will be the first occasion the All-Stars teams have played in Sydney since the concept began in 2010 on the Gold Coast, and it will be the first official fixture of the 2022 NRL season.

The women’s clash will kick off at 7:20 pm on Saturday, February 12, at CommBank Stadium, with the men’s match to follow at 10:10 pm.

Māori All Stars (Wāhine)

Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly (KF #150)

Botille Vette-Welsh

Corban Baxter (c)

Jocephy Daniels

Katelyn Vaha’akolo (KF #149)

Kennedy Cherrington

Krystal Rota (KF #123)

Lavinia Gould

Mya Hill-Moana (KF #154)

Nita Maynard (KF #137)

Olivia Kernick

Page McGregor

Raecene McGregor (KF #139)

Rona Peters (KF #75)

Roxette Mura

Shannon Mato

Tiana Raftstrand-Smith

Zahara Temara

Coach: Keith Hanley

01 June 2021

New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) is pleased to confirm a busy NZ16s and NZ18s representative schedule for the year in liaison with New Zealand Māori Rugby League (NZMRL) and Auckland Rugby League (ARL).

NZRL recently announced the selection of an NZ18s Girls Schools team off the back of the inaugural NZRL Secondary Schools Girl’s Competition in August. The NZ18s Girls will take on the Auckland 18s Girls on Sunday, 3 October.

The Auckland 18s side will be selected off the back of the Auckland Rugby League (ARL) Region of Origin. The ARL Region of Origin provides a pathway for players unavailable to participate in the NZRL Secondary Schools or NZMRL Rangatahi Tournaments to represent Auckland in a trial game against New Zealand Secondary School Girls.

ARL CEO Greg Whaiapu says: “It’s really exciting to be able to offer up these opportunities for our local Auckland players and we’re looking forward to being part of the NZRL’s annual competitions.”

“The girls-specific grades are the fastest growing area of our game right now and it’s an important next step that we continue to offer more opportunities for our players and coaches in those grades to earn honours at a higher level.

“We also want to encourage and help the other districts around New Zealand to keep growing the female game.” 

New Zealand Māori Rugby League (NZMRL) will select a squad to participate in the Pasifika Aotearoa Collective Tournament (15th – 17th October) off the back of their NZMRL Rangatahi Tournament over Queen’s Birthday weekend in June.

John Devonshire, NZMRL Chairman, says, “This is an outstanding opportunity for our seven foundation member nations to come together in an inaugural Pasifika Aotearoa Collective (PAC) rangatahi side.”

“For so long we have competed against each other at many levels, the opportunity for our Cook Island, Fijian, Niuean, NZ Māori, Samoan, Tongan and Tokelauns to play together side by side is incredible. We are grateful to Motu Tony and the NZRL for this opportunity to create our own PAC history.”

From there, NZMRL will then finalise their 18s Kotiro team to take on the NZ18s Girls at the NZMRL Tuakana Tournament in Rotorua on October 23rd.

John Devonshire, adds, “For our Māori Kotiro 18’s side to participate in this historical match is right. NZ Māori, along with the ARL have been the key drivers in the kotiro space. The match is a reflection of the momentum that kotiro rugby league is having in NZ. Well done Lui and the NZRL; this has been a long time in the making, it is here now – bring it on!”

The NZMRL Tuakana Tournament will also play host to a clash between the NZ Resident 16s and the Pasifika Aotearoa Collective 17s (Boys).

The NZ Resident 16s team will comprise of the best players from the NZRL National Youth Tournament held in early October, while the Pasifika Aotearoa Collective 17s will be the merit team selected from the Pasifika Aotearoa Collective Tournament.

Luisa Avaiki, Head of Women’s Rugby League at NZRL, says the new representative clashes are huge milestones for the game.

“It’s so exciting to provide these playing opportunities which reflect the hard mahi going into growing and developing our women’s space across the country.”

“Thank you to ARL and NZMRL, who have pioneered the girls game for many years now. It’s exciting to come together and provide opportunities for girls to play rugby league at a representative level. It adds a layer of incentive and fosters further pathways that encourage participation growth and player development.

“I can’t wait to see what the girls produce come the end of the year.”

NZ18s Schools v Clubs also returns for its second year, which will see the best 18s players from the NZRL Secondary School Competition and NZRL Youth Tournament face off in October. NZRL will release further detail on the clash in due course.

30 April 2021 As seen on RNZ by Talei Anderson

With the support of New Zealand Rugby League, six nations have joined forces to promote Māori and Pasifika rugby league in New Zealand, with the launch of the Pasifika Aotearoa Rugby League Collective.

Organisations representing Tokelau, Fiji, Tonga, the Cook Islands, Niue and the New Zealand Māori Rugby League signed a memorandum of understanding in Auckland last night, with support from NZRL, acknowledging a partnership of working together moving forward.

Auckland Niue Rugby League secretary Phillip Tasmania said they aim to bring Māori and Pasifika communities together through rugby league with culture at the forefront.

“We want to bring our communities together while keeping our values and culture,” he said.

“It’s also about working with the regions and going out to our Pasifika and Māori communities that are out in those regions and supporting them, showing them the system and templates we use to run tournaments and recreating those events in those areas which we’ve already started in places like Whangārei and Wellington.”

The group first met in 2016 after some New Zealand based Pacific Island nations struggled to field teams for tournaments.

After a lot of hard work, Auckland Niue Rugby League now have 400 players registered.

“We were a mess, we were a team made up of every other nation,” Tasmania admitted.

“There are no more meetings under the trees. You’ve got to use the mainstream system to progress this and our families and people respect that.”

All six members of the Pasifika Aotearoa Rugby League Collective are equal, he added.

“No ones flag is bigger than the others. Our [Niue] flag is the same size as New Zealand, the same size as Tonga … we get equal say which is good, we all bring different things to the table. It’s about respect and it’s a core value as a collective moving ahead.”

Hengi Fusitua from Hakula Tonga Aoteroa New Zealand said the Collective want to ensure playing rugby league is affordable for both Māori and Pasifika families.

“Our drive is to make sports affordable for our kids, because we have seen it at grass roots where mums turn up with five kids and have to hand pick which one can play because she can’t afford to pay the fees,” he said.

“Now we’re able to eliminate that [which will mean] more participation for our people so for us, cost is really high on the agenda, but also collectively, we want to see all the cultures together.”

For Tokelau, the Collective is as an opportunity to empower, unite and help grow the game of rugby league within the Tokelauan communities in Aotearoa.

“I’m excited for the generations, for the young players both males and females, but more so that we now know there are stepping stones for them in terms of playing field but more importantly of support people,” explained Luther Toloa.

Meanwhile an under 17s Pasifika Aotearoa Collective merit team will be selected from the New Zealand Māori Rugby League Tuakana tournament and Pacific Youth Cup to play the New Zealand under 16s at the end of October in Rotorua.

New Zealand Māori Rugby League chairman John Devonshire said it was just the beginning, with tournaments progressing and growing over the years.

“For me the biggest thing was representing our culture, cultural awareness and cultural identity not being lost,” he said.

“Every nation acknowledged New Zealand Māori as the haukāinga or tangata whenua of the motu, of the land, of Aotearoa, and that made it pretty special for us that we wanted to be part of this.”

22 February 2021

The most influential Māori sportspeople of the past 30 years have been crowned and four rugby league greats have been honoured in one of the most prestigious sporting lists.


Dubbed The Little General during his standout career with the Warriors and the Kiwis, Jones was, according to broadcaster Dale Husband, “so popular he could have been Prime Minister”. Played 48 tests and 238 NRL games for the Warriors before turning to coaching. Ex-Warriors and Kiwis teammate Wairangi Koopu said Jones transformed both teams. “The small rarea bird flies up high in the kahikatea tree. That’s how you’d sum up Stacey Jones.”


The star of the Kiwis’ only Rugby League World Cup winning team in 2008, Benji Marshall is about to enter his 19th NRL season, having played over 300 first grade games. Won a NRL title with Wests Tigers in 2005 when he produced an amazing flick pass in the grand final. Golden Boot winner in 2010 as international player of the year. “He could have played State of Origin, he definitely could have played for Australia, but he chose the black jersey over a Kangaroos jumper,” said ex-Kiwi Tony Kemp. “To me, that says everything. The guy’s an absolute legend.”


One of the most respected players in NZ Rugby League history and across the entire NRL scene, Wiki starred during 12 seasons with the Canberra Raiders, winning the 1994 premiership as a centre. Ended his 311-game career with three seasons as a Warriors prop. The most capped Kiwi with 55 tests and a NRL Hall of Famer. Former Kiwis captain Hugh McGahan said of Wiki: “He’s got conviction, he’s got resilience, he’s got power. He never knew the meaning of the word, ‘giving up’.’’


Her 32 Test tenure in the Kiwi Ferns jersey includes four World Cups spanning 18 seasons. Putararu-born Hireme-Smiler was named World Cup MVP in 2013 and also appeared for the Black Ferns a year later at the 2014 Rugby World Cup, as well as starring in the Black Ferns sevens team. Former Warriors and Kiwis forward Wairangi Koopu claims Hireme’s ease at switching between the two codes earned her the nickname of “Honey Bill Williams”. She was named in NRL.com’s Women’s Rugby League Team of the Decade (2010s) and appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to the game, cementing her standing as one of women’s rugby league’s all-time greats.

Most influential Māori sportspeople of the past 30 years

1. Lisa Carrington – Te Aitanga-A-Māhaki/Ngāti Porou (Canoeing)
2. Michael Campbell – Ngāti Ruanui/Ngāi Rauru (Golf)
3. Wynton Rufer – Ngāti Porou (Football)
4. Jason Wynyard – Ngāti Maniapoto/Ngāpuhi (Wood Chopping)
5. Pero Cameron – Ngāpuhi (Basketball)
6. Zinzan Brooke – Ngāpuhi (Rugby)
7. Stacey Jones – Ngāti Maniapoto/Ngāpuhi (Rugby League)
8. Farah Palmer – Tainui/Ngāti Maniapoto (Rugby)
9. Benji Marshall – Ngāi Tuhoe (Rugby League)
10. Dame Noeline Taurua – Ngāpuhi (Netball)
11. Aaron Smith – Ngāti Kahungunu (Rugby)
12. Portia Woodman – Ngāpuhi (Rugby)
13. Ruben Wiki – Ngāpuhi (Rugby League)
14. Trent Boult – Ngāi Tahu/Ngāti Porou/Ngāi Te Rangi (Cricket)
15. Eric Rush – Ngāpuhi (Rugby)
16. Winston Reid – Tainui/Te Arawa (Football)
17. Peter Martin – Te Arawa (Paralympics Athletics)
18. Leilani Joyce – Ngāti Hine/Ngāi Te Rangi/Tainui (Squash)
19. Suzie Bates – Ngāi Tahu (Cricket/Basketball)
20. Honey Hireme-Smiler – Ngāti Raukawa/Ngāi Haua/Waikato-Tainui (Rugby League/Rugby)
21. Nathan Nukunuku – Ngāti Porou (Softball)
22. Temepara Bailey – Ngāpuhi (Netball)
23. Shane Bond – Ngāi Tahu (Cricket)
24. Sarah Hirini – Ngāti Kahungunu (Rugby)
25. Joelle King – Ngāti Porou (Squash)
26. Raelene Castle – Ngāpuhi (Sports Administrator)
27. Kayla Whitelock – Rangitāne (Hockey)
28. Cathy Millen – Ngāi Tuhoe (Power Lifting)
29. Cameron Leslie – Ngāpuhi (Paralympics Swimming/Wheelchair Rugby)
30. Shannon McIlroy – Ngāti Porou (Lawn Bowls)

22nd February 2021

Indigenous skipper Cody Walker admitted he was to blame for the penalty goal miscommunication that resulted in a 10-all draw with the Maori All Stars because he didn’t get coach Laurie Daley’s message to go for the win.

Trailing 10-8 with just over a minute on the clock Walker opted to take a penalty shot from a James Fisher-Harris penalty unaware there would be no golden point extra-time.

Daley said he “wanted to go for the try” but Walker couldn’t see any message when he looked to the bench and assumed levelling up the scores was the best play believing they’d have extra-time to decide the match.

Instead the game ended in a draw for the first time in the history of the All Stars game and the teams shared the Arthur Beetson Trophy.

“I turned around and I thought it was golden point,” Walker said.

Daley said although he wanted his team to go for the win he considered the draw a fair result.

“I think when you look at it overall of course we would have loved to have won but I think you just saw two passionate proud cultures having a crack right til the death,” Daley said.

“We made it extremely hard for ourselves, we didn’t have any good ball, we turned it over, we were ill-disciplined at times but the commitment to defend and just keep turning up was as good as I’ve seen.”

In a low-scoring game there were moments of brilliance and desperation from both sides.

Latrell Mitchell came up with a classy grubber kick for Alex Johnston to score in the 64th minute to give the Indigenous All Stars a sniff of victory.

For the Maori side it was their experience that led the way with Benji Marshall instrumental from halfback and James Fisher-Harris fittingly awarded the Preston Campbell Medal as man of the match despite his costly penalty late in the game.

Fisher-Harris made 137 metres from 16 hit-ups and also made 26 tackles in a typically powerful performance.

Just three weeks after his glittering career appeared over, Marshall capped his surprise career extension with South Sydney by leading the New Zealand side in his debut appearance for the Maori.

With Jahrome Hughes and his five Melbourne Maori teammates stranded in Victoria due to COVID travel restrictions, Marshall stepped into the No.7 jersey with a superb performance that proved there are many miles left in his 35-year-old legs.

Marshall led an emotion-charged haka prior to kick off but after a tryless first half it was his sublime short ball to Jordan Riki that finally broke the stalemate as the Maori capitalised on the superior possession and field position.

The veteran playmaker was the calm amid a frenetic storm as errors upon errors left both sides unable to really hit their attacking groove in a game dominated by desperate defence.

“It’s not about trophies for us. It would’ve been good to win it but at the end of the day there’s a bigger picture,” said Maori coach David Kidwell.

“I’m just immensely proud of my boys. They put everything out there tonight and I couldn’t be happier for them.”

22 February 2021

Captain Corban McGregor praised her team for “keeping the foot on the throat” as the Maori team delivered an emphatic 24-0 win over the Indigenous All Stars in a thoroughly one-sided contest.

The Maori women led 12-0 after just 11 minutes and, fearing an Indigenous comeback, McGregor pulled her team together in a huddle to remind them the job was far from done in front of a vocal home crowd for the Indigenous women in Townsville.

Not only did the Maori side keep the Indigenous women scoreless, they ran in three more tries to ensure a dominant victory, avenging last year’s tough 10-4 loss on the Gold Coast.

“It was super important and we used that exact term after the second try, let’s keep the foot on the throat and keep leading and pushing as hard as we can,” said McGregor.

“They are a strong side and they have some power coming back and we knew that if we gave them a chance they’d make the most of it so we definitely just wanted to keep dominating through the middle and things opened up for us.

“I had a taste of this game last year and we didn’t come out on top so there was fire in the belly to get the win tonight.”

Maori coach Keith Hanley was ecstatic with the result as his team – minus all their New Zealand-based players – produced a complete performance with powerful defence, skill and precision.

Whether it was halfback Zahara Temara orchestrating tries from pinpoint grubber kicks or the rampaging runs of front-row duo Rona Peters and 18-year-old rookie Mya Hill-Moana, the Maori women just had an answer for everything.

“We couldn’t possibly have scripted that,” Hanley said.

“Obviously it was still a very competitive contest. Credit to the Indigenous side. They never faded and never went away and again we just re-emphasize our love and respect for them.

“We have a very gifted group and they certainly came together today and were all singing the same theme song.”

Raecene McGregor won the player of the match award with her two-try effort while sister Page McGregor chimed in with a try of her own for a family treble.

Indigenous coach Ian Bourke said his team could never get themselves into the contest as sloppy handling in the wet conditions cost them dearly.

“We certainly learned the hard way tonight,” Bourke said.

“But I think the girls will learn a fair bit out of it.

“I don’t know the average age but it’s hovering probably around 20 to 21 and let’s be honest, that compared to the opposition is pretty experienced in key positions and unfortunately we couldn’t get into the rhythm or feel as though the energy was there.

“I’m definitely proud of the girls in the back end of the game.

“It’s not about the short-term event. It’s the long-term plan for the program.”

Indigenous skipper Tallisha Harden said her team were devastated by the result but it would only strengthen their resolve to become better footballers.

“The emotion at the end, a lot of them are pretty heartbroken,” she said.

“It’s tough when you lose but we’ll bounce back and I’m really excited to see what the girls do next and their pathway for the rest of the year.”

September 17, 2020

Mt Smart Stadium is set to host a jam-packed weekend of rugby league action as the inaugural NZRL Schools v Clubs (18s) match followed by an NZ Residents v NZ Māori Residents game have been scheduled for Sunday, November 8, following the Kiwi Ferns v Fetū Samoa Test the day prior.

The inaugural NZRL Schools v Clubs game (18s) will kick-off at 2 pm at Mt Smart followed by the NZ Residents v NZ Māori Residents match at 4 pm. Thanks to Sky Sport both games will be televised live.

The NZ Residents squad will consist of the best players from the NZRL National Men’s competition kicking off on October 3.

The last time the two met was in 2017 where the NZ Māori Residents came away with a 22 – 16 victory over the NZ Residents squad.

NZRL CEO Greg Peters says; “To see our NZ Residents and NZ Māori Residents face each other once again is an exciting milestone, it will be a tough clash with plenty of passion and a great way to finish off a specular weekend of rugby league action at Mt Smart.

“The Residents selection is an important accolade and increases the standard of competition for our National Competition.  This match will showcase New Zealand’s best grassroots talent from up and down the country, and it’s great to work with NZ Māori Rugby League (NZMRL) again to produce a quality rugby league event.”

NZMRL Chairman, John Devonshire, is delighted that a Māori Residents side will be taking on the NZ Residents in November.

“It is a win-win scenario for both organisations, and it’s great to see the two sides come up against each other. The NZRL premiership competition will take on extra meaning for the players and the ability for our tuakana tournament side to have a live match is awesome.

“The sides have played previously with a break last year due to the touring English side, a game where NZ Māori dominated with a solid victory. I always look forward to these games and more importantly, the opportunity for our players that support our tuakana tournament to put on the Māori jersey.”

The NZRL Schools v Clubs match set for a 2pm kick off prior to the Residents game, is the first of its kind and will act as a key development pathway for New Zealand 18 players.

This inaugural fixture is set to stick as an annual event in which the NZRL Schools team will comprise of players actively playing in the NZRL National Secondary school competition and the NZRL Clubs team selected from District, Zone and National Youth programmes.

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 the National Secondary School Competition and NZRL Youth tournament were cancelled for 2020; however, players identified in the NZRL wider squad for the New Zealand Resident 18s back in February will make up the majority of the selections for this year.

The New Zealand Schools team will be comprised of identified players from the Auckland Rugby League Secondary Schools competition as well as those registered in full-time study.

The New Zealand Clubs team will consist of identified players who have competed in a meaningful club competition in 2020.

Unfortunately, initial NZ 18s fixtures against England Academies and Fiji Schoolboys had to be called off due to COVID-19 border restrictions.

NZRL GM of Football and High Performance, Motu Tony says; “This Schools v Clubs match will act as an important pathway going forward for our young and aspiring Kiwi talent, so it’s great to see this fixture come to light even despite the COVID setbacks.

“We were disappointed the NZ18s fixtures had to be called off, but our talented 18 players are still able to get a run in what will hopefully develop into a staple calendar event for NZRL.

New Zealand Rugby League is saddened to hear of the passing of Kiwi #558 and Māori Rugby League great, Rick Muru.

The Huntly born prop was a legend of Taniwharau Rugby League Club, being named in the Taniwharau Team of the First 70 Years back in 2015. He played for Waikato and the New Zealand Māori, including at the 1975 and 1977 Pacific Cups.

In 1980 Muru was selected to play for the Kiwis on their tour of Great Britain and France which he played five games for New Zealand, scoring once.

He was a valued member of the New Zealand Rugby League community both at a grassroots and international level – his contribution to the game will not be forgotten.


Brandon Smith stamped himself as a player to watch in 2020 with a stunning two-try performance to lead the New Zealand Maori to a stunning 30-16 come-from-behind victory over the Indigenous All Stars on the Gold Coast.

The Kiwi Test hooker, who plays understudy to 400-game legend Cameron Smith at the Melbourne Storm, showed his time in the shadows is clearly over with a spirited effort to snatch at Cbus Super Stadium.


Davis-Welsh, Harden lead Indigenous Women’s All Stars to glory

Indigenous All Stars winger Nakia Davis-Welsh turned in a blinder to inspire a 10-4 win over the Maori Ferns after a triumphant return to the team she debuted for as a 16-year-old.

Maori All Stars coach David Kidwell has selected an imposing pack to lock horns with the talented Indigenous team at Cbus Super Stadium on February 22.

The Maori side shouldn’t lack go-forward with Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Adam Blair, Jesse Bromwich, Kenny Bromwich, James Tamou, Kevin Proctor, Briton Nikora, Zane Tetevano and Corey Harawira-Naera among an elite crop of big men chosen.

“We wanted to have a bit of a narrative about being powerful, fast and dynamic. I think the team reflects that,” Kidwell told NRL.com.

The backline packs plenty of punch too. The dazzling Kalyn Ponga will play his natural position of fullback after struggling to impose himself on the game at five-eighth last year in a 34-14 loss.

“I think that’s where he plays his best footy, he can sweep both sides of the field, he can inject himself where he needs to,” Kidwell said of Ponga.

“Touching on that forward pack, he can sniff around for the offload. Talking to him, he’s really excited. He doesn’t have to worry about leading the team around.”

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Bailey Simonsson appear as the likely wingers, while Dylan Walker, Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, Brad Takairangi and Esan Marsters are centre options.

Marsters, who had off-season ankle surgery, is in doubt to play and discussions with the Cowboys medical staff about his fitness are ongoing.

Given Benji Marshall made himself unavailable for Maori selection to prepare for the upcoming NRL season with Wests Tigers, Jahrome Hughes and Kodi Nikorima will combine in the halves.

Brandon Smith and the experienced Issac Luke will share the hooking duties.

Raiders duo Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Joseph Tapine were initially named but were withdrawn.

Kidwell, who has taken over the coaching duties from Stacey Jones, is elated to be involved with such a special fixture and believes his troops can match the Indigenous team in the entertainment stakes.

“We’re going to play a bit of an expansive style of football. I thought the Indigenous team, with the experience of having played it for nine years, really caught us off guard last year.

“It’s a different concept, it’s a different way of playing football … [But] you still have to execute and have a high completion rate, so it’s about finding that balance.”

Kidwell hasn’t settled on a captain but he said incumbent skipper Adam Blair “epitomises what the week’s about.”

He added: “I’ve got some great leaders there and we’ll talk about who’s going to captain the side. But whoever does, it’s going to be a great honour.”

Kidwell considered results from an online fan poll before settling on his final squad.

In the women’s All Stars clash the star-studded Maori side will feature Kiwi Ferns Krystal Rota, Raecene McGregor and Kiana Takairangi as well as Jillaroos Corban McGregor and Botille Vette-Welsh.

Playmaker McGregor was part of the Brisbane side which stormed to victory in the NRLW grand final last October, scoring a try in the 30-6 triumph.

After playing second fiddle to McGregor in the NRLW decider, Dragons youngster Maddison Weatherall will line up alongside the Broncos star for the Maoris.

Coached by Rusty Matua the side features 10 players with NRLW experience.

Maori Women’s All Stars: Harata Butler, Sarina Clark, Tanika-Jazz Noble-Bell, Laishon Jones, Amber Kani, Kerehitina Matua, Raecene McGregor, Corban McGregor, Capri Paekau, Krystal Rota, Christyl Stowers, Kiana Takairangi, Jonsal Tautari, Botille Vette-Welsh, Maddison Weatherall, Geneva Webber, Kathleen Wharton, Kat Wira-Kohu.

Troy Whittaker – NRL.com


Grassroots rugby league will be given a huge boost when the England Community Lions and Country Rugby League of New South Wales both tour New Zealand in October this year.

The tours will provide opportunities for New Zealand players to take on the visiting teams with the matches involving the Community Lions being broadcast live on SKY Sport.

The England Community Lions will kick off their first-ever New Zealand tour with a match against a North Island Championship Selection at Owen Delany Park in Taupo on October 24.

They’ll then feature against the New Zealand Māori Residents XIII team at the New Zealand Māori Rugby League National Tuakana Tournament in Rotorua on Sunday, October 27, with a third match to be announced soon.

The Country Rugby League of NSW team will play the same North Island Championship Selection taking on the Community Lions at the NZRL Youth Tournament at Pukerawhero Park in Rotorua on October 8, followed by an encounter with the Rockcote Canterbury Bulls at the new Christchurch home of rugby league, Ngā Puna Wai Sports Hub, on October 12.

“This is extremely exciting for our local game,” said NZRL CEO Greg Peters.

“With the Community Lions’ games being televised live, these matches will attract national audiences and further showcase the undeniable regional talent we have on offer. We’re very thankful to SKY Sport for their ongoing support.

“Going forward we’re looking to provide more regular opportunities to further enhance the quality of our grassroots game for both our men’s and women’s teams, as well as for international teams wanting to make the trip down under.

“We’re thrilled that our local game will be showcased nationwide during a busy international calendar. It’s an exciting time for rugby league at all levels.”

Rugby Football League international manager Alan Davidson said: “There is a buzz around the squad who are all eager to travel and challenge themselves against very good opposition.

“As the England Community Lions are made up of amateur players from across the country, having the opportunity to travel to the other side of the world is something that doesn’t come around too often.

“This is the first time the Community Lions have toured New Zealand and the players are looking forward to not only the caliber of games lined up but also the chance to be able to experience the Kiwi culture and visit different places across the country.”

Country Rugby League of NSW CEO Terry Quinn said his organization was looking forward to the upcoming tour and the benefits it will bring.

“This is the first time Country Rugby League will tour New Zealand with our Men’s Under-23’s Representative side so we are extremely excited,” Quinn said.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for some of the brightest talent in regional New South Wales to showcase their skill and compete against players they wouldn’t normally compete against, as well as experience a different culture.

“The relationship we have with the New Zealand Rugby League is one we are hoping to continue for many years, and this tour is a fantastic opportunity for Australian and New Zealand Rugby League to unite.”



By NRL.com Reporter, Chris Kennedy

After a one-year hiatus, a revamped NRL Harvey Norman All Stars fixture is back on the calendar with the New Zealand Māori to take on the Indigenous All Stars for the first time.

The move is a positive one with the Māori to present a welcome – and no doubt passionate – addition to the fixture.

Both teams will boast some huge names as well as some scintillating young talent.

While the Indigenous side will be without the likes of Ryan James and Greg Inglis (both knee), and Ben Barba (deregistered) and the Māori team has lost Jordan McLean (Townsville floods), their absences present opportunities to other players.

They won’t have an easy time of it against a Māori side boasting a stack of Test talent including Jesse and Kenny Bromwich, Dane Gagai, Peta Hiku, Adam Blair, Tohu Harris, Kevin Proctor, James Tamou and Dean Whare.

What you need to know

Key Match-up

Cody Walker and Tyrone Roberts v Kalyn Ponga and Jahrome Hughes. The two halves pairings in this match have boundless ability. For the Indigenous side, Walker and Roberts bring plenty of experience, calm heads and, in Roberts, the most developed kicking game from either team.

While Walker is one of the code’s most dangerous running halves the Māori team still has the edge in this department with Ponga and Hughes both still better-recognised as dangerous running fullbacks despite each spending time in the halves last season.

With the squads having so little time to gel there is a chance the game plan goes out the window – which would play into the Māori pair’s hands – but any extra control and polish Roberts and Walker can add could well prove the difference in even an unstructured contest.

For the Indigenous All Stars to win

The injury to Ryan James leaves the Indigenous squad a little light on for props. They have one of the most dangerous big men on the planet in Andrew Fifita but for the Indigenous side to triumph, he will need some good support from the likes of promising but uncapped rookie Kerr and journeymen Leilani Latu and Chris Smith to match it with a powerful Māori pack that has five middle forwards with Test experience in the squad.

For the Māori All Stars to win

You can all but guarantee that potent pack will create some attacking sets for the Māori side. While none of their playmakers (which also includes fullback Peta Hiku and hooker Brandon Smith) is playing out of position as such, each is playing in a jersey number which has not been their regular one at NRL level. The question is whether something of a makeshift spine can come together in time to create enough point-scoring opportunities to win the match – if they can do that they’ll go a long way towards claiming the trophy.

Indigenous Stat Attack

Players from the Indigenous squad were near the top of some significant stats in the Telstra Premiership last season. Winger Blake Ferguson finished best for total and average metres with 4862 at 203 per game. Andrew Fifita’s 70 offloads were the second-best of all players while his 105 busts were the second-most of any forward.

When it comes to line breaks, Ferguson (19), Walker (18), Mitchell (17) and Addo-Carr (16) were all in the top 10 of the competition. There’s no doubt this squad contains some of the most dangerous ball-runners in the game right now.

Māori Stat Attack

The weight of Test experience in favour of the Māori side is startling. In total the Indigenous squad has 33 Test caps shared among five players. The Māori team has a whopping 223 Test caps among 17 players. In fact, from the entire squad only the two halves and Corey Harawira-Naera are yet to represent their nation in a Test and even then it’s probably just a matter of time.

These numbers include starts for Tier 2 nations but the gulf only gets wider if you trim it to just Tier 1 caps – the Indigenous squad have nine Tongan caps between Fifita and Latu while the Māori team have four Cook Islands jerseys between Brad Takairangi and Esan Marsters. The remaining 219 Test starts for the Māori side are all for Australia (Dane Gagai and James Tamou) and New Zealand. Adam Blair’s 47 Kiwi Test caps outnumber the entire Indigenous squad’s Test experience.

Maroons and Kangaroos back Dane Gagai is one of a handful of players in the NRL to qualify for both teams and this year becomes the first player to represent both the Indigenous and Māori All Stars. Gagai’s cousin and one-time Indigenous All Star Josh Hoffman could potentially become another in future


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Indigenous All Stars

Bevan French (Eels); Blake Ferguson (Eels), James Roberts (Broncos), Latrell Mitchell (Roosters), Josh Addo-Carr (Storm); Cody Walker (Rabbitohs), Tyrone Roberts (Titans); Andrew Fifita (Sharks), Nathan Peats (Titans), Josh Kerr (Dragons), David Fifita (Broncos), Adam Elliott (Bulldogs), Tyrone Peachey (Titans). Interchange: Will Chambers (Storm), Leilani Latu (Titans), Chris Smith (Bulldogs), Alex Johnston (Rabbitohs), Jesse Ramien (Knights), Tyrell Fuimaono (Panthers), Kotoni Staggs (Broncos).

New Zealand Māori All Stars

Peta Hiku (Warriors); Dane Gagai (Rabbitohs), Esan Marsters (Wests Tigers), Dean Whare (Panthers), Jordan Kahu (Broncos); Kalyn Ponga (Knights), Jahrome Hughes (Storm); Jesse Bromwich (Storm), Brandon Smith (Storm), James Tamou (Panthers), Kevin Proctor (Titans), Tohu Harris (Warriors), Adam Blair (Warriors). Interchange:Danny Levi (Knights), Brad Takairangi (Eels), James Fisher-Harris (Panthers),  Gerard Beale (Warriors), Corey Harawira-Naera (Bulldogs), Joseph Tapine (Raiders), Kenny Bromwich (Cowboys)