Cody Walker says it means everything, while his Indigenous All Stars teammate Josh Kerr is lost for words.
Walker says captaining the Indigenous All Stars against the Maori All Stars on Saturday night in Townsville carries far greater meaning than just a marquee event heralding the fresh rugby league season.
“It means absolutely everything to me,” Walker said.
“I remember when the first All Stars was on the Gold Coast I was staying in an apartment there, sleeping on a single mattress in the lounge room watching the game.
“To be here and captain the side is just an unbelievable feeling not only for myself, but my familly back home, my brother, my dad who is here, and partner and two kids back in Sydney.”
Teammate Kerr said he struggles to put into words the significance of the Saturday night’s match, the 10th edition of the All Star concept started match by Preston Campbell following the 2008 ‘Dreamtime game’ between Indigenous and Maori representatives.
Dragons forward Kerr said he had to be calmed by his club coach when he first received the call up to the Indigenous side because of what it means to his family and Indigenous community.
“It’s the best feeling ever,” he said.
“Just to know that I’m representing our culture, our people … I can’t really put into words, it’s just such an amazing feeling.”
For the coaches, the Townsville fixture is an opportunity to promote a lasting legacy for future generations.
Maori coach David Kidwell said some of his players had been away from home for many years.
“To be able to connect with your culture, and your people back home is really important to these players,” Kidwell said.
Indigenous coach Laurie Daley said the focus for his camp was understanding their roots and culture, with players sharing intimate stories of background and upbringing.
“The more that the guys connect with each other and share stories about not only themselves but their own families and what happened to elders, I think is very powerful,” Daley said.
“It is just a great reminder of the people who have been there before and people that we represent.”
“For us, it’s about recognising what’s happened but also the challenge of making a difference into the future.”