Tyron Roberts and his NRL Indigenous All Star teammates train at Gosch's paddock, Melbourne on Monday.  Picture: David Crosling/AAP
Tyron Roberts and his NRL Indigenous All Star teammates train at Gosch's paddock, Melbourne on Monday. Picture: David Crosling/AAP

Durkin: All Stars provide welcome relief from scandals

DISILLUSIONED by persistent negativity, a journalist in America back in the 1930s decided to publish a newspaper containing only good news. Not surprisingly, the publication lasted just a few months.

Nothing has changed much in the eight decades since - certainly not in NRL circles anyway. And with a booming social media feeding the diverse range of fans the game has accumulated, the insatiable audience seemingly can't wait for the next drama.

In 40 years covering the game I love, embarrassingly I concede this past off-season has been an absolute shocker for rugby league. The behaviour of some players and their apparent disregard for common decency have been abhorrent.

And, of course, it's the rotten-apple syndrome again. Just on 500 players are registered to play in the elite NRL competition, yet a mere handful during the off-season have tarnished the reputation of not just their peers, but the game itself and everyone who follows the code.

Not for one minute am I intending to deflect attention from the boofheads - indeed, criminals if some are found guilty of their horrendous charges. But I'm not going to dwell on the negatives either. Enough have already done that.

The good people in rugby league - the 99 per cent of players who are honourable, respectful and appreciative, the hard-working staff, and the multitude of fans - deserve a reprieve from the relentless pessimism of the past few months.

Hopefully some action on the field will kick the harmful publicity off the front and back pages, to be replaced by what is good about our great game. And that action starts this evening (Friday) in Melbourne with an All Stars double-header.

Following a gap year in 2018, the contest returns under a new umbrella, and for the first time embraces the women who - unlike some of their male counterparts - have recently done so much to champion the code.

Dane Gagai, pictured at an indigenous leadership camp, will play for the Maori All Stars.
Dane Gagai, pictured at an indigenous leadership camp, will play for the Maori All Stars.

In what may well be a hint that a revolution to the State of Origin concept is imminent, the Kiwis have been invited into the arena. Maori women's and men's teams will kit up against their Indigenous All Star opponents, with the games kicking off at 4.10pm and 7pm (AEST) respectfully.

Then in the early hours of Monday in England, NRL premiers the Roosters will clash with Super League champs Wigan for the title of world club champions - something the Roosters, in a cheeky US advertising campaign, have already claimed.

Okay, so no one - except maybe Roosters fans - is having sleepless nights in anticipation. But with a woeful summer of cricket behind us and a less-than-wonderful Australian Open in tennis, genuine sports lovers have something different to watch, and become excited about.

And while the All Stars clash may be just another game of footy to us, spare a thought for what it means to Latrell Mitchell and Dane Gagai.

Mitchell has surrendered his place in the Roosters team, and an all-expenses paid trip to the northern hemisphere, for the opportunity to represent his culture, while Gagai, an Australia Test player, is honouring his Kiwi mum by playing for the Maori.

In the two teams playing tonight, 30 players are either internationals, Origin reps or both. And if the past is a yardstick, defence will certainly take a back seat.

News Corp Australia


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