It’s taken three years, but now that Greg Inglis and Justin Hodges are both finally available for selection at the same time, the 2012 Indigenous All Stars’ line-up is the strongest team on paper yet, since the inception of the Indigenous All Stars’ concept in 2009.
The full team was announced recently in Sydney, and along with the selection of Hodges and Inglis, who most consider to be the two best centres in the world, the squad features a total of five new faces – highlighted by the inclusion of Chris Sandow, who will make his All Stars debut at Skilled Park Stadium on the Gold Coast on 4 February.
The 2011 NRL season’s two joint leading try-scorers, Nathan Merritt (wing) and Ben Barba (fullback), feature in a truly world-class backline that would be the envy of any international side. The 2011 International Rookie of the Year, Jharal Yow Yeh, has also earned selection on the wing, while Johnathan Thurston and Sandow will form a halves’ partnership that may well be a preview of the future Queensland Origin scrum-base combination.
Sam Thaiday, Jamal Idris, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Greg Bird, Travis Waddell and George Rose make up the starting forward pack, while Andrew Fifita, Corey Paterson, Matthew Bowen, Scott Prince, Anthony Mitchell, Joel Thompson and Nathan Peats round-out the squad from the bench.
Over 15,000 fans cast their vote online at NRL.com to pick 17 players, while coach Laurie Daley and his selectors added a further three players to the 20-man squad.
Thurston topped the voting with 11,282, followed by Broncos’ winger Jharal Yow Yeh (7568), Inglis (7530), new Broncos’ captain Sam Thaiday (7331) and Titans’ lock Greg Bird (7105).