Indigenous All Stars utility Will Smith has articulated just how important the annual All Stars Match is to First Nations players.
Gold Coast Titans recruit Will Smith says “a lot” of Indigenous NRL players would rather play in the annual All Stars match than in any other fixture on the rugby league calendar, such is the importance of the game to First Nations communities.
Smith, a proud Anawain and Gumbaynggirr man, is preparing to play in the second All Stars match of his career on Saturday night.
The crafty utility said he was “still buzzing” about being selected to come off the bench for the Indigenous All Stars against the Maori All Stars at Parramatta’s CommBank Stadium.
“I’m just excited,” Smith said.
“For myself, I think it’s the best game I could be a part of throughout the year and throughout my career.”
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Smith said by playing, he had the chance to honour “my family, my culture, my people, where I’m from and the next generation” of Indigenous Australians.
“It’s the biggest game for myself and I know that a lot of other Indigenous players would say the same thing. For me, it’s the biggest game of the year,” he said.
Smith hasn’t played in the All Stars match since 2016, when he was called in to replace the injured Ray Thompson at the 11th hour.
Despite the long gap between appearances, Smith said he hadn’t given up hope he would return to the representative arena.
“Every year you hope to play there. It’s been a while since I did play,” he said.
“To get named in this team, I’m excited. It’s a privilege. I can’t wait.”
Smith joins the Titans from the Parramatta Eels, where he played five seasons as Mr Fix-It off the bench.
One of the most destructive forwards in rugby league, Smith’s new Gold Coast teammate David Fifita will also line up for the Indigenous All Stars.
Smith said the pair’s experience working together in the pre-season could bode well for the Indigenous All Stars.
“Now I know the way that he plays and the way he likes the ball and the way he defends, I can’t wait to get out there and play with him,” he said.
“I’m sure he’s going to be a handful for the other team.”