Māori All Stars coach (and current Parramatta Eels assistant coach) David Kidwell. Photo/Supplied
Māori All Stars rugby league coach David Kidwell says Māori culture is the key factor that will unite his players in the build-up to their match against the Indigenous All Stars in the new year.
Kidwell, the Parramatta Eels assistant coach, took on the role of Māori All Stars coach this week.
“Our culture is unique and despite everyone’s different backgrounds this will be the framework to bring us together, the Ngāti Whātua coach says.
“Even a mihi to team mates will help break the ice and start building that team connection.”
He is now checking player availability for the clash against the Indigenous team on 22 February.
Team selection will be managed by Kidwell, NZ Māori Rugby League chair, John Devonshire, team manager, Mark Horo, and former NZ Māori Resident coach, Darren Pirini.
Armchair selectors will also get to have their input into team picks, through an NRL campaign where fans can vote for the players they think should feature in the men's All Stars fixture (https://www.nrl.com/all-stars/voting).
Mark Deweerd, who leads the NRL’s Indigenous strategy, says it allows fans to influence the way coaches think and the type of football they would like to see played.
Their preferred teams will be provided to Kidwell and Indigenous coach Laurie Daley and used to make up the final squads of 20.
The Māori team is expected to be confirmed at the end of this month, then both Australian and New Zealand based players will attend an Auckland training camp in the New Year.
Kidwell says he is excited about the talent of potential candidates, like Dane Gagai (Ngāti Pikiao), Kalyn Ponga (Te Ātihaunui-a-Pāpārangi), James Tamou (Muaupoko & Ngā Rauru) and Benji Marshall (Ngāi Tūhoe).
“Benji was probably Kalyn’s idol when he was a kid. People want to see these experienced and rising stars playing together. So I’m looking forward to it, and building on this proud indigenous legacy.”
The Māori side went down 14-34 to the Indigenous team earlier this year in Melbourne.