Bailey Biondi-Odo had set a few goals for 2024 but the All Stars clash wasn’t necessarily one of them.
It’s why when Indigenous All Stars coach Ron Griffiths gave him a call to confirm his spot in the February 16 clash in Townsville, it caught him off guard.
Biondi-Odo will have his first taste of representative football after being included in the squad in a rewarding inclusion after a difficult past 18 months rehabilitating a knee injury.
His mother is of Indigenous heritage while his father is of Torres Strait Islander descent, making the match a special occasion for the family.
The 22-year-old burst onto the scene for the Bulldogs in 2021, making his NRL debut in Round 16 before playing 17 games until he ruptured his ACL.
Biondi-Odo, who is originally from Cairns, had the help of his mother off-field to help him get back onto the field.
“The process at the start was annoying because I tore my ACL but had to wait eight weeks for the surgery,” Biondi-Odo said.
“I struggled a little bit, to be honest. It was tough and I was away from home. I don’t have a lot of family here but the boys helped me get through it.
“I’m in a good place now. The first three weeks of surgery I reckon I had a shower only three times. It was hard to get out of bed. My mum flew down and helped me so I owe her a good year.
“I caught the back end of last year but when I came back nothing was happening. I was unfit and out of shape. It was good mentally though to be back playing and that’s the positive I took out of it.
“I just wanted to play good footy this year and get back into the NRL, they were my main goals.”
Biondi-Odo has been training at hooker and in the halves for the 2024 season.
“Reedy (Reed Mahoney) is good to learn off and I’ve got a good relationship with Turps (Jake Turpin). He’s switched on and happy to help.
“I’m happy to play anywhere, I’m just happy to be back on the field.”
He links up with teammates Josh Addo-Carr and Josh Curran, also of Indigenous heritage, in the match this Friday, February 16 in Townsville.
The All Stars match will be broadcast live on the Nine Network, Fox League, Kayo Sports, Sky Sport New Zealand and Watch NRL.