ALL FOR IT: All Stars skipper Cameron Smith has expressed his disappointment that Johnathan Thurston will not be in action for the Indigenous All Stars in Brisbane on Saturday.
ALL FOR IT: All Stars skipper Cameron Smith has expressed his disappointment that Johnathan Thurston will not be in action for the Indigenous All Stars in Brisbane on Saturday. Anthony Au-Yeung Getty Images

Smith backs clash as stars fail to align

World All Stars captain Cameron Smith is lamenting Johnathan Thurston being unavailable from the annual pre-season fixture, despite the fact he was set to line up for the Indigenous All Stars.

Thurston is always a massive drawcard for this representative game, and has regularly spoken about how much he loves the concept.

More than 40,000 are expected at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night for the 2016 edition.

But this year Thurston will be required by the Cowboys to prepare for the World Club Challenge in the United Kingdom - a week after the All Stars match.

There have been a number of withdrawals from this game, prompting the NRL's head of football, Todd Greenberg, to admit the future of the concept in its current format was in doubt.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Sam Burgess, Trent Hodkinson, Tyson Frizell, Robbie Farah, Simon Mannering and Lachlan Maranta have pulled out of the World All Stars line-up.

Nathan Peats, Blake Ferguson, Chris Grevsmuhl and Alex Johnston were the other players, along with Thurston, to withdraw from the Indigenous All Stars side.

Smith, like Thurston, loves the All Stars concept, and was disappointed one of the game's best players could not participate this year.

"I've played against him (Thurston) a fair few times and alongside him. I'd much rather have him on my team than not playing at all," Smith said. "But, I'll be honest, I would've loved for him to be available for this game, but the Cowboys want him for the world club series."

A major threat to the future of the All Stars match has been the success of the Auckland Nines competition.

Parramatta won that tournament over the weekend in front of more than 70,000 fans at Eden Park.

The NRL pre-season is now jam-packed.

But Smith said he would do everything he could to see the All Stars fixture remain.

"It's a difficult one given the popularity of the Nines," he said. "I'm a traditionalist and I like the traditional form of the game.

"If I'm fit and healthy for this game, I'll always be available if Wayne (World All Stars coach Wayne Bennett) picks me."

Smith admitted there might need to be fewer games during the summer.

"Maybe something has to give," he said. "But that's our calendar. All the players are doing their very best to try and satisfy the schedule.

"But unfortunately you can't have all the stars playing in the same match."



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