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NASCA Aboriginal All-Stars have raided Rugby Unions ranks in a bid to qualify for the 2004 Cougar World Sevens.
Australian Rugby Union Sevens representative and former ACT Brumby Willie Gordon will be joined by his Randwick team mate Arthur Little in a return to their Rugby League roots for the All Stars at the Sevens qualifying tournament at Western Weekender Stadium, St Marys, next Wednesday 21 January.
Quickly shaping up as favourites the All-Stars also boast three State of Origin representatives in the line-up: Carl Webb, Jason Moodie and Ken McGuinness.
Set to be coached by League icons Cliff Lyons and his assistant David Peachey the All-Stars are confident of qualifying for a position in the main Sevens draw at Aussie Stadium on January 24-25.
Lyons said he was pleased that the side would have the benefit of the experience of these senior players along with captain Robbie Simpson, but he was just as excited by the prospects of emerging players such as the Cowboys' Derricke Watkins, Rabbitohs' Jimmy Storer and Broncos' tyro Ian Lacey.
"It was great to watch the progress of players like Joey Williams who was in our side last year and who we believe will be in the Souths side this year," Lyons said.
This was echoed by Peachey who has been granted permission by the Sharks to assist the side outside his training commitments.
"Over eight per cent of players across the NRL have an indigenous heritage and, although we would all love the opportunity to represent an all Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander side, it is just as important to encourage emerging players," he said.
NASCA CEO David Liddiard praised the involvement of Lyons and Peachey as well as thanking the NRL clubs for their continued support.
"Cliff Lyons is an icon of indigenous rugby league and a master of sevens," Liddiard said. "His value to the side is immeasurable."
"The presence of David Peachey will be of equal value as he stands tall as a spokesman for current indigenous players.
"NASCA applauds the decision to award Peachey the Ken Stephen Medal for service to the game of rugby league and looks forward to supporting the work of the David Peachey Foundation," he continued.
Liddiard said he was also proud to announce that the side would have Aboriginal owned Diz Home Improvements as its major sponsor.
"Diz Home Improvements is owned by former Penrith player Doug Delaney who wants to support the development of the game that gave him so much.
"His involvement provides just as important a message to players about life after football," Liddiard concluded.
The NASCA provisional squad is:
1. PJ Ellis 2. Willie Gordon 3. Ian Lacey 4. Arthur Little 5. Ken McGuinness 6. Kevin McGuinness (subject to availability and club selection) 7. Jason Moodie 8. Ronald Prince (subject to availability and club selection) 9. Robbie Simpson (captain) 10. Shaun Skuthorpe 11. James Storer (subject to availability and club selection) 12. Craig Trindall 13. Derricke Watkins 14. Carl Webb
The team will be finalised following advice from NRL clubs.