REVEALED: Stars align for grand showdown in Townsville
THE NRL's best players will bring Queensland Country Bank Stadium to life next year.
In a historic first for North Queensland, the Townsville stadium will play host to the annual Indigenous All Stars showpiece event.
The Townsville Bulletin can reveal the NRL will be at QCB Stadium today to launch the build-up to the All Stars clash on February 20.
The game will pit the best Maori and Indigenous players head to head in what is the perfect showcase of two of the world's oldest cultures.
It will be the 10th iteration of the All Stars clash, and will be played in North Queensland for the first time.
NRL boss Andrew Abdo said it was the first major rugby league event to be held in the stadium.
"North Queensland is rugby league heartland and I know this game will mean a lot to the local community,'' he said.
"All Stars is an event like no other on our calendar. It brings people together and helps us celebrate First Nations people and rugby league's incredible diversity.
"All Stars is more than a game, it's a week of community engagement, education and cultural awareness. It means so much to our playing group and to the Australian Rugby League Commission."
Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council chair Katrina Fanning said the All Stars would continue to grow with a presence in Townsville.
"The All Stars concept has been such an important initiative since 2010," Fanning said.
"It has changed lives from Gold Coast and Brisbane to Newcastle and Melbourne.
"It makes so much sense to include Townsville - an incredibly important rugby league region but also one with such strong links to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities."
It is fitting for the 10th staging of the clash to be held in Townsville, after Cowboys legend Johnathan Thurston was the inaugural winner of the Preston Campbell medal in the first game in 2010.
But it is a future Cowboys star who will be the face of the Indigenous outfit, with speedster Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow lining up opposite Cowboys teammate and Maori player Esan Marsters to promote the epic clash.
The match will be an economic boon for the region, having generated millions of dollars in economic benefits when played in Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
Townsville MP Scott Stewart said the All Stars would showcase the region.
"Securing a showcase event like the All Stars is exactly what the Palaszczuk government had in mind when planning Townsville's new world-class stadium," he said.
"I'm confident the All Stars showcase will shine at Queensland Country Bank Stadium which will also be broadcast on TV nationally and across the ditch.
"North Queensland has a lot to be proud of with its new stadium and I'm sure local fans will give Australia's Indigenous All Stars a competitive advantage."
Queensland Minister for Sport Stirling Hinchcliffe said the All Stars game would be first cab off the rank in a year of big events at the newly minted stadium.
"NRL All Stars is the first of series of planned events that will see this world-class stadium shine in 2021 and support more jobs for North Queensland," he said.
Originally published as REVEALED: Stars align for grand showdown in Townsville