2022 co-captains Kodi Nikorima and Joseph Tapine hold the All Stars trophy after winning this year game. photo/NRL photos
"A beautiful part of the country, in fact a beautiful part of the world," and with those words, NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo confirmed the 2023 NRL All-Stars event will be held in Te Arawa.
The announcement was made at Te Puia, the Māori Arts and Crafts Institute in Rotorua, where Abdo confirmed the best men's and womens Māori and Indigenous rugby players will come together in February.
It will the first time the concept will be played outside of Australia and the fifth between the Indigenous All Stars and the Māori All Stars.
Te Arawa representative Tā Toby Curtis said All-Stars was a wonderful opportunity for Rotorua.
“I think when it comes to having international relations, especially for Māori, it is ideal that Rotorua is seen as a centre for Māori rugby league,” he said.
“We are at a stage where people are starting to visit our shores again. We’ve got to become more internationally conscious because the future relies on how we relate to the rest of the world – not just Aotearoa, New Zealand.”
New Zealand Māori Rugby League chair John Devonshire said it was the highest echelon for Māori sport to aspire to. In the past five years it’s always been about bringing the game and people back home.
“It’s a great opportunity for us as Māori, for Te Arawa and Rotorua as hau kainga and tangata whenua. We want to give the Indigenous team an opportunity to enjoy our culture. It’s a community effort, and we want to invite the whole community, and what better place in Aotearoa to do it?"
Abdo said the All Stars brings together the two communities and cultures like nothing else on the NRL calendar.
"Based on what we experienced this morning, I'm extremely excited to spend an entire week with you here in February next year."