Former Internationals Willie Mason and Timana Tahu will make a stunning return to representative football as rivals after the Knights team-mates were today named as ‘coach’s selections’ for next month’s Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars in Brisbane.
Newcastle and NRL All Stars Coach Wayne Bennett chose Mason to make his All Stars debut alongside Adam Reynolds (Rabbitohs), James Tamou (Cowboys), Billy Slater (Storm) and Tim Grant (Panthers), while Tahu was chosen by Laurie Daley for his Indigenous All Stars side featuring seven newcomers. The others are Raiders’ trio Reece Robinson, Jake Foster and Jack Wighton, Aidan Sezer (Titans), Joel Romelo (Bulldogs) and Dane Nielsen (Warriors).
Indigenous All Stars captain Johnathan Thurston and Broncos NRL All Stars selection Ben Hannant joined Bennett and Daley in Brisbane today for the announcement of both squads for the fourth annual Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars match to be played at Suncorp Stadium for the first time on February 9.
More than 40,000 Rugby League fans have had their say via two online voting stages to select a representative from each of the 16 NRL Clubs in the 20-man NRL All Stars squad, while fans could choose from all of Rugby League’s best Indigenous talent for Daley’s Indigenous All Stars.
Following the closing of the public online voting on Monday, Bennett was able to select two extra players alongside automatic selections Benji Marshall (New Zealand captain) and Cameron Smith (Australian captain); while Daley could pick three extra players in addition to automatic selection (as captain) Thurston.
Bennett’s other ‘coach’s selection’ is the Storm’s Cooper Cronk, while Daley also chose Wighton and Nielsen.
Daley said: “We certainly have some strike-power in our team and when you look at the calibre of players we have, I think fans will be excited at the style of footy we will play.
“The NRL All Stars is a formidable side with big, powerful, class players in key positions, but I know how determined our team is to perform well and I think we have a squad capable of achieving something special.”
Bennett said the public had selected him a balanced side that would be capable of playing the exciting brand of football that had become synonymous with the All Stars game.
“There is no doubt the fans will be in for an entertaining game with the great mix of talented and exciting backs and powerful forwards in both teams, as well as the blend of experience and youth,” Bennett said.
“Just as important as the game though is the whole week of All Stars activities and community events and I commend the players for their ongoing commitment to the All Stars concept which continues to help make a real difference to the lives of many Australians.”
The 2013 NRL All Stars team is:
Player (* = All Stars debutants) Club
Billy Slater* Storm
Akuila Uate Knights
Shaun Kenny-Dowall Roosters
Josh Morris Bulldogs
Brett Morris Dragons
Benji Marshall, (C) Wests Tigers
Adam Reynolds* Rabbitohs
James Tamou* Cowboys
Cameron Smith Storm
Ben Hannant Broncos
David Taylor Titans
Anthony Watmough Sea Eagles
Paul Gallen Sharks
Robbie Farah Wests Tigers
Tim Grant* Panthers
David Shillington Raiders
Feleti Mateo Warriors
Jarryd Hayne Eels
Willie Mason* Knights
Cooper Cronk Storm
The 2013 Learn Earn Legend! Indigenous All Stars team is:
Player (* = All Stars debutants) Club
Ben Barba Bulldogs
Reece Robinson* Raiders
Justin Hodges Broncos
Greg Inglis Rabbitohs
Blake Ferguson Raiders
Johnathan Thurston (C) Cowboys
Scott Prince Broncos
George Rose Sea Eagles
Andrew Fifita Sharks
Joel Thompson Raiders
Greg Bird Titans
Nathan Peats Rabbitohs
Ryan James Titans
Aidan Sezer* Titans
Joel Romelo* Bulldogs
Jake Foster* Raiders
Dane Neilsen* Warriors
Timana Tahu* Knights
Jack Wighton* Raiders
The Queensland Minister for Tourism, Major Events, Small Business and the Commonwealth Games, the Hon. Jann Stuckey MP, extended her congratulations to the players on their selection today and welcomed the event to the State’s capital for the first time.
“The votes are in and with such talented athletes on both sides, the 2013 Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars match at Suncorp Stadium is an event not to be missed by fans,” Ms Stuckey said.
“Broadcast to an estimated 1.5 million people, the fourth annual 2013 Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars will showcase our State’s capital as a premier holiday and event destination.
“The Newman Government recognises the important role events play in delivering economic and social benefits to the communities in which they are held and we are proud to support this event through Tourism and Events Queensland.”