NRL All Stars to return to Gold Coast in 2020

By James Perry

The NRL has today announced that the Māori and Indigenous NRL All-Stars will return to Cbus Super Stadium in February.

New Zealand Māori Rugby League chairperson John Devonshire says it's an "honour and a privilege" to be involved again in the All-Stars fixture set for Saturday the 22nd of February.

The All-Stars game began on the Gold Coast 10 years ago and returns to the Glitter Strip after a five-year absence. 

Devonshire is excited about the game returning to where it all started under Preston Campbell, and having both the Māori Men's and Women's teams involved. 

"I think it will be receptive and the whānau over there, especially around Queensland- and Brisbane's not that far away- so really pleased to be going to the Gold Coast." 

Originally a match between the NRL All-Stars and the Indigenous All-Stars, the Māori All-Stars made their first appearance this year in Melbourne.

It saw the likes of State of Origin and Kangaroos Stars Dane Gagai, Kalyn Ponga and James Tamou represent their heritage.  Devonshire is hopeful that will be repeated again in 2020, as well as exposing young talent like Melbourne Storm's Jahrome Hughes to representative football, who went on to score a try in his Kiwi's debut against Tonga in June.

Devonshire is also hoping that the Māori All-Stars will again feature the best Māori players in 2020. 

"Now that we have the dates confirmed we can start talking to the individual players and checking their availability."

There is a slight concern some of the players may make themselves unavailable due to an ever-expanding season.  The Oceania Cup at the end of the NRL season as well as the World 9s in October will mean some players will have extended time off between seasons. 

"There's a bit of demand on the players especially with Dane and Kalyn, they're quality players and we'd like to think they'd be available should their form warrant it," Devonshire says. 

The Māori All-Stars took part in the All-Stars fixture for the first time this year in Melbourne, the Māori NRL All-Stars went down to the Indigenous All-Stars 14-34, while the Māori women's side got up 8-4 in a close tussle.

The matches at Gold Coast's Cbus Super Stadium will be the second year of a two-year deal, with a review to be done in 2020 to determine the future of the Māori All-Stars involvement in the annual fixture.