Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
3 days ago
On the second anniversary of Kevin Rudd's apology to the aboriginal people, and in a game filled with hard hitting defence, excitement and attacking flair, the Indigenous All Stars team ran out victors over their more experienced NRL All Stars counterparts, 16 points to 12.
Following a passionate war dance by the Aboriginal People, the match kicked off at Skilled Park, with the first tackle setting the tone for the night, as George Rose was belted in his first hitup by four NRL All Stars defenders. The match certainly did not lack passion - with each and every play showing pride in their jersey and what it represents.
The NRL All Stars were rocked early by an injury to key playmaker Darren Lockyer. Lockyer failed to complete even one quarter of football, leaving the field with an elbow injury. However it was Johnathan Thurston that stole the show, setting up tries, and kicking two conversions. Thurston had a magical night, where almost everything he had a hand in turned to gold.
As well as turning back the clock with his inspired kick chase, Sailor also relived the ailing art of the post try celebration - using the corner post as a makeshift didgeridoo for his team mates to dance around.
The Indigenous All Stars used the opportunity of this try to attempt the "double play" being trialled in this match. Following a try, the scoring team has the option of forfeiting the attempted conversion, instead receiving one tackle from 15 metres out to attempt to score another try. This experimental rule saw the return of some old school set plays, including "the Wall" - as made famous by Peter Sterling.
The game was not all out attack, however. While the match was expected to be a high scoring affair, some brilliant scramble defence from both teams prevented any soft tries. Indigenous All Stars players in particular led with some inspired defense, including try saving tackles over the try line by Sam Thaiday and Jharal Yow Yeh.
Newcastle and NSW supporters experienced dejavu in the 30th minute, when captain Kurt Gidley was smashed by Knights team mate Cory Paterson. Gidley signalled straight to the sideline, and was assisted from the field by trainers to be assessed for a knee injury. Gidley will undergo scans tomorrow to determine the full extent of the damage.
In other injury news, Canberra rookie Travis Waddell was knocked out in the third quarter - however he was able to stand and limp off the field with assistance some minutes later.
The NRL All Stars team looked directionless in the first half of the match - having no answers for the impenetrable defence of the Indigenous try line. However the half time break was not kind to the Indigenous side. After trailing 10-0 at half time, the NRL All Stars scored 8 points in the third quarter, to be within 2 points at three quarter time.
The NRL All Stars took the lead shortly into the fourth quarter, with flyer Michael Jennings sprinting onto a Brett Finch kick, and scoring a try. The NRL All Stars attempted a double play to increase their lead, but the power play fizzled out with a simple knock on.
With just six minutes remaining in the match the Indigenous All Stars regained the lead, much to the delight of most of the 26,628 people in attendance - as Thurston spectacularly drew two defenders and passed wide for Jamie Soward to outrun Michael Jennings and score in the corner.
Preston Cambell Medal winner Johnathan Thurston then kicked the conversion from the sideline, to put the game out of reach of the NRL All Stars. Final score, Indigenous All Stars 16, NRL All Stars 12.