Two of the oldest cultures in the world will headline the start of the 2019 NRL season on Friday 15 February, when the Australian Indigenous All-Stars take on the New Zealand Maori Kiwis at AAMI Park in Melbourne.

The men’s and women’s NRL Harvey Norman All-Stars double-header were announced this morning in front of Indigenous and Maori representatives and players, including Josh-Addo Carr and Jesse Bromwich from the Storm, together with Nakia Davis-Welsh from the Roosters and Honey Hireme from the Dragons.

NRL Head of Football, Brian Canavan said the new concept had been canvassed amongst fans and players alike, with strong support for the matches across both fan bases.

“The All-Stars concept has been popular with crowds across the country and abroad since it first commenced back in 2010,” Mr Canavan said.

“In 2019, we’re taking the All-Stars to another level – paying homage to Australian and New Zealand First Nations cultures and celebrating the unique bond between both countries.”

Australian Rugby League Chair, the Honourable Linda Burney MP said the power and pride across all four teams would be on display come February next year.

“Some of the most exciting, energetic and engaging players emanate from both First Nations cultures,” Ms Burney said.

“What better way to celebrate the return of rugby league for another year than to kick off the season with a match that prides itself on being more than just a game; but an opportunity to educate and empower communities long after the full-time whistle.”

Minister for Tourism and Major Events, the Honourable John Eren MP said he was looking forward to watching the teams go head-to-head in what promises to be an enthralling contest and wonderful event.

“This is more than just a great sporting spectacle – it is a celebration of Indigenous culture both on and off the field,” Minister Eren said.