Now that the NRL has confirmed a revamped All-Stars clash to headline the 2019 season to kick-off on February 15 at Melbourne’s AAMI Park, it’s worth taking a deeper look at the headline-grabbing stars who could represent New Zealand Maori.
1 Kalyn Ponga
Ok, this one is a no-brainer right?
Despite the fact that Ponga is an Australian resident and has played State of Origin football for the Queensland Maroons, he would be eligible to represent New Zealand Maori thanks to Kiwi parents and could well be the first name on the team sheet given his hype and growing star power.
Ponga has gone very close to living up to the big-billing that came with his high-priced move to the Newcastle Knights this season and the sensational young star is a genuine crowd-pleaser sure to light up an exhibition style clash like the All-Stars concept in Melbourne.
Ponga's livewire approach to the game is best suited to the big stage and in front of a big crowd on a night set to go down as a special occasion, he's the perfect addition to what should be two All-Star casts.
2 Valentine Holmes
Another young player who played for the Queensland Maroons during the 2018 State of Origin series, Cronulla's Valentine Holmes is also another sure-fire player capable of getting the crowd off their feet.
The All-Star concept is the perfect entertainment package and the selectors of both squads will be keen to jam in as many high-quality attacking threats as possible so Holmes should be amongst the first picked in much the same way Kalyn Ponga should.
Holmes is a try-scoring machine capable of the most athletic finishes in the game, so getting him involved is a no-brainer.
3 Corey Norman
Much like Parramatta as a whole, 2018 has been a season to forget for five-eighth or fullback Corey Norman but while a possible move away from the club looms down the line, I'd love to see him part of the very first New Zealand Maori side to take part in the NRL All-Stars against the Indigenous Australians outfit.
Such is his energy and unpredictable nature, the enigmatic Norman could well rise to the occasion and be part of a very special and enjoyable spectacle and with that chance must come his selection in the side, most likely in the halves given the strength of the Maori backline options.
4 Jordan Rapana
In much the same way as Kalyn Ponga and Valentine Holmes, Jordan Rapana is a natural try-scorer capable of landing four-pointers from just about anywhere on the park and he'd be another great addition to the inaugural New Zealand Maori side.
Canberra's Rapana has lit up the league for a number of years and while he'd be without his partner in crime Joey Leilua on the All-Stars stage, he'd be another strong addition to a talented backline.
The All-Stars concept will grow on the back of star power and star power alone, so making a play for the very best try-scorers and speedsters in the league is a must right from the very start.
5 Benji Marshall
This game is all about star power and although he's at the back-end of a very special career, Benji Marshall would be the perfect addition to the New Zealand Maori All-Stars side.
The veteran half has had an Indian summer in 2018 and is still widely regarded in the Maori community as a leader on and off the field and recognition of this with selection in the side would add a much-needed touch of class and gravitas to proceedings.
The likeable Marshall is playing good enough footy to warrant selection alone and should definitely be handed a spot, whether in the starting side or in a bench utility style role.
Which players do you think need to be selected in the New Zealand Maori All-Stars side? Let us know in the comments below.
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