Rugby League writer, JASON OLIVER, runs his eye over this weekend’s NRL All-Stars game. Everything you need to know about team line-ups, crucial clashes, and where the money is going for the big game – right here!

Indigenous All Stars v Maori Kiwis @ AAMI Park
Friday 15th February, 8:00pm (AEST)

IndigenousMaori
Bevan French1Peta Hiku
Blake Ferguson2Dane Gagai
James Roberts3Esan Marsters
Latrell Mitchell4Dean Whare
Josh Addo-Carr5Jordan Kahu
Cody Walker6Kalyn Ponga
Tyrone Roberts7Jahrome Hughes
Andrew Fifita8Jesse Bromwich
Nathan Peats9Brandon Smith
Josh Kerr10James Tamou
David Fifita11Kevin Proctor
Adam Elliot12Tohu Harris
Tyrone Peachey13Adam Blair
Will Chambers14Danny Levi
Leilani Latu15Brad Takairangi
Chris Smith16James Fisher-Harris
Alex Johnston17Gerard Beale

 

Final Thoughts: A fresh approach to the NRL’s All-Star concept gives us a matchup that will have all the fire and intensity of a mid-season test match.

The Indigenous side enters with a ridiculously potent backline. Josh Addo-Carr ($10/$2), Blake Ferguson ($11/$2.10), Latrell Mitchell ($12/$2.30) and James Roberts ($12/$2.30) are all massive considerations in the first and anytime try scorer markets. Cody Walker has shown he can move a team around the paddock and shouldn’t have any troubles feeding the outside backs should he receive good ball.

However, being on the receiving end of good ball is where the question marks come in for the Indigenous side.

The Maori Kiwis have the far superior forward pack.

Where the Indigenous have Josh Kerr – who is yet to debut in first grade – the Maori have former Blues prop James Tamou. For the hosts backrow of David Fifita, Adam Elliot and Tyrone Peachey – all good players in their own right – the visitors respond with the Kiwis backrow of Kevin Proctor, Tohu Harris and Adam Blair. There’s no question the Maori are going into the game with the more highly rated pack.

As the first hit out of the 2019 NRL season for all 34 players, the bench becomes increasingly important.

Again, advantage Maori.

All four players starting the game in jackets for the Maori side have worn the Kiwis jersey in the last two years.

With the stronger pack and far superior reinforcements, it’s a surprise to see the Maori as $2 and +1.5 underdogs. It’s not as though their backline will struggle to find points. Dane Gagai ($11/$2), Jordan Kahu ($12/$2.20) and Esan Marsters ($15/$2.62) will all demand the attention of the Indigenous defence. Then there’s Kalyn Ponga ($17/$2.75). Blink, and you’ll miss him.

Previous All-Star games have been met with reluctance. However, there’s nothing but anticipation for this one.

Underdogs are always a good option in the NRL at this time of year and this preseason exhibition is no different.

Tip: Head-to-head – Maori Kiwis @ $2