The NRL All Stars match is a pillar of Australian Rugby League and this weekend’s meeting between the Indigenous All Stars and the Maori All Stars was perhaps as intense an encounter as you’ll ever see.
It’s not often that we see cross codes from covering Union to focus on League, but the All Stars is undoubtedly one of the best reasons to do so. The unique atmosphere of such an event, and the pre-match rituals of the Indigenous and Maori sides was a demonstration of the pride in the culture and traditions of both Australia and New Zealand.
Indeed, the prolonged haka and aboriginal war cry was a spine-tingling pre-match moment which sent the packed crowd at Queensland Country Bank Stadium wild.
Union followers may be largely unaware of the All Stars fixture but the concept itself is an ingenious way to grow the popularity of the game and engage fans alike. It’s little wonder that a standalone game in which fans can actually vote for the players they want to see turn out in the match generates the attention and passion that it does.
And as it is generally a celebration of the Australian Indigenous culture, the game takes on more than a simple competitive spirit. It is very much a hallmark of what it is to be an Australian.
Hakas are well known to all rugby fans as being highly charged, emotional pre-match rituals which are there to get players into the right frame of mind before playing, while also remaining true to the tradition of Kiwi culture.
War cries are equally as important to the Indigenous population of Australia and produce an epic, if different, method of respecting the heritage and culture of their people.
It’s not the first time that Maori and the Indigenous sides have fronted up against each. In fact, it is a common occurence with the All Stars being run since 2010. Australia and New Zealand have faced off in the Rugby League World Cup as well, with similar scenes.
The popularity of hakas has also been a key player in rugby fans experiencing the different cultures of the southern hemisphere, with the recent encounter between the Maori All Blacks and the Pacific Island-based Moana Pasifika doing battle last year.
In that match, both sets of players performed pre-match rituals which sent shivers down the spine.
The match itself ended up being a nervous draw between the two sides, finishing 10-10.