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Friday night’s much-anticipated clash between the Māori and Indigenous All Stars has league fans on both sides of the Tasman weighing in on who wins and why.
Ahead of the clash in Melbourne, Stuff spoke with two proud experts on both sides of the contest to get their thoughts and tips on the game, and the key players they will be keeping an eye on.
Tawera Nikau, former Māori and Kiwis great
This is going to be one of the feature events on the rugby league calendar for a long time to come I think, I’m a huge fan of the concept.
Big Latrell Mitchell for the Indigenous side and obviously the likes of Kalyn Ponga for the Māori, to name a few, are among the game’s best in their respect positions.
I have really enjoyed watching the Aussie boys embrace their Māori culture as well and they’re clearly really keen to learn and soak it all in. It makes me incredibly proud.
On the game itself, I’m most looking forward I think to watching that Māori forward pack, in particular young Brandon Smith.
On paper it’s virtually the Kiwis pack and Smith has just gone from strength to strength of late so he could be the difference for me.
Led by obviously Adam Blair, I think that pack could have some dominance through the middle there.
I’m tipping the Māori boys in a tight one, but I think we will get quite a high-scoring game.
Tip: Māori by 8-10
Jamie Soward, Indigenous original
I love this concept, more so the the previous NRL All Stars fixture, if I’m honest.
We’re going to see two sides play with unbelievable amounts of passion and it’s the first hit out of the year obviously, so the players are going to be fizzing.
It’s a match that has been a long time coming and the next step would be to somehow include a Pacific nations side down the line.
On the game, the Indigenous side on paper really excite me, the centres in particular in James Roberts and Latrell Mitchell.
That’s the NSW pairing and I’d say not far off being the Australian centres in a few years time.
The key match-up for me will be Cody Walker up against Kalyn Ponga, though.