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.