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Indigenous v Maori All Stars: Thompson, Blair, DWZ named captains

With the Maori All Stars having been outgunned by the electric Indigenous team last year, new coach David Kidwell has vowed to fight fire with fire this time.

The promise of dynamic attacking play mixed with the intense cultural passion from both sides means Saturday's clash at Cbus Super Stadium is shaping as a high-octane thriller.

All eyes will be on new Rabbitohs signing Latrell Mitchell, who will wear the No.1 jumper for the Indigenous All Stars and showcase his skills and fitness at fullback. 

The Rundown

Team News

Indigenous All Stars: 1. Latrell Mitchell, 2. Blake Ferguson, 3. James Roberts, 4. Jesse Ramien, 5. Josh Addo-Carr, 6. Jack Wighton, 7. Tyrone Roberts, 8. Josh Kerr, 9. Nathan Peats, 10. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown, 11. Joel Thompson, 12. Wade Graham, 13. David Fifita. Interchange: 14. Connor Watson, 15. Christopher Smith, 16. Zac Saddler, 17. Josh Curran, 18. Alex Johnston, 19. Tyrone Peachey, 20. Tyrell Fuimaono 

Joel Thompson has been named captain, taking over from last year's skipper Cody Walker, who is unavailable after an off-season shoulder reconstruction.

Injuries forced other key players to withdraw from coach Laurie Daley's original squad, including Andrew Fifita (knee surgery) and Adam Elliott (ankle injury). Fellow forward Ryan James copped a devastating blow with his second season-ending ACL rupture in as many years. 

Rookie props Jamayne Taunoa-Brown, who is trialling with the Warriors, and Zac Saddler, a Manly lower-grader, have earned call-ups. Dragons recruit Tyrell Fuimaono, who can play centre or back row, and Canterbury lock Chris Smith were also late additions. Daley has said that his outside backs could be shuffled into the forwards at stages due to a shortage of big men.

Maori All Stars squad: 1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 3. Esan Marsters-Siavale, 4. Dylan Walker, 5. Bryson Goodwin, 6. Kodi Nikorima, 7. Jahrome Hughes, 8. Jesse Bromwich, 9. Brandon Smith, 10. Adam Blair, 11. Kenneath Bromwich, 12. Briton Nikora, 13. Corey Harawira-Naera. Interchange: 14. Issac Luke, 15. Brad Takairangi, 16. Zane Tetevano, 17. Jordan Riki, 18. Kevin Proctor, 19. Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, 20. Pasami Saulo 

Adam Blair and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak will lead the Maori side. Rabbitohs veteran Bryson Goodwin has been drafted in to replace Raiders winger Bailey Simonsson.

Props James Tamou and Nelson Asofa-Solomona have also withdrawn, being replaced by young Broncos forward Jordan Riki and Knights front-rower Pasami Saulo. There was a question mark over the fitness of Esan Marsters, with the centre coming off an ankle cleanout, but he erased any doubts by featuring in North Queensland's triumphant NRL Nines campaign last weekend.

Key match-up

Latrell Mitchell v Kalyn Ponga. The young superstars are pitted against each other in a mouthwatering fullback battle. Mitchell is out to impress as he prepares to move into the No.1 role full-time with South Sydney this season. Ponga, meanwhile, didn't play his best at five-eighth in the 2019 All Stars game and will no doubt be determined to make a bigger impact in his preferred position.

For the Indigenous All Stars to win

Speed is the Indigenous side's most lethal attribute and it's how they can run away with the match. Provided their forwards hold firm, the blistering backline featuring Mitchell, Josh Addo-Carr, Blake Ferguson and James Roberts will back themselves to get across the stripe regularly, just as they did in last year's match.

For the Maori All Stars to win

Even without Tamou and Asofa-Solomona, the Maoris are still packed with power up front. Taking advantage of that by rolling up the guts and tiring out their counterparts' limited middle-forward options looks like a solid plan. Second-phase play should flow when fatigue becomes a factor and there's enough strike on the fringes to rack up a winning score.

Stat Attack

In the eight All Stars games so far, the average points per match is 38.25, with one or both teams recording 28 points or more on five occasions. The 2012 clash won 36-28 by the NRL All Stars is the highest-scoring affair, while the World All Stars' 12-8 victory in 2016 is the lowest.

And another thing...

It's fitting that the game will be held on the Gold Coast. The brainchild of former Titans star Preston Campbell, the concept originated on the Glitter Strip 10 years ago. The Indigenous All Stars beat the NRL All Stars 16-12 to kick things off back in 2010.