Preston bursting with indigenous pride - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Preston bursting with indigenous pride

By Wayne Heming 20/11/2009 06:00:09 PM Comments (0)

He won't throw a punch but Preston Campbell will be bursting with the same pride that inspired Arthur Beetson in State of Origin 30 years earlier when he leads the Indigenous All Stars against an elite NRL All Stars next February.

Folklore has it that the then 35 year-old Beetson guaranteed the future of Origin by putting a punch on the chin of Parramatta teammate and NSW centre Mick Cronin in the first game in 1980.

Recently-retired winger Wendell Sailor has been granted his farewell game after being voted into the 20-man team along with Melbourne's golden boot winner Greg Inglis, North Queensland halfback Johnathan Thurston and Brisbane teammates Justin Hodges and Sam Thaiday on Friday.

Campbell, 32, struggled to put into words what the All Star game meant to him and his indigenous teammates.

"It's really tough to explain," said Campbell after his team was announced on the lawns of Brisbane's Parliament House on Friday.

"I wish I could play with sort of passion I have for this game every week for the Gold Coast," he said.

"That's not to say I don't do my best because you're playing for two points every week and towards a premiership.

"But this is a little bit bigger than that.

"I'm playing for my people, I'm playing for my family, I'm playing my community.

"What more passion can you get .... I don't think there's any."

Campbell got the All Star idea from his involvement in the Dreamtime Team which played a promotional game against the New Zealand Maoris in last year's World Cup.

He admitted he may shed a few tears before the game.

"I dare say I will and I won't be ashamed of that," he said.

The All Star clash has quickly grabbed the public's imagination with 16,000 tickets already sold, assuring a Skilled Park sellout on February 13.

The public's response has shocked NRL boss David Gallop with tickets being purchased in Perth, Mt Isa, Darwin and South Australia.

"It's fair to say I've been surprised at how big it's been, the ticket sales, the voting, it's all surpassed expectations," said Gallop.

Gold Coast captain Scott Prince said the chance to represent the indigenous community was "very special" as was playing outside Thurston and inside the likes of Inglis and Hodges.

"The game means a lot to me and my people," he said.

"This game will be all about passion. I'm sure people who don't following rugby league closely will watch it for what it is.

"Time will tell who the better team is and hopefully it can kick on from here and be a stand alone game every year."

Cowboys prop Carl Webb, known for wearing his heart on his sleeve for Queensland, admitted to feeling "completely different" about playing for his people.

"When it was an idea I thought it was exciting, but now we are here, I'm a little nervous, it puts the wind up you," he said.

"I loved playing for my state but to play for my race and for the indigenous people all over the country is a totally different honour again."

Almost 20,000 rugby league fans voted on the Indigenous All Star side which eight players with State of Origin experience.

"The fans have picked an incredible team," said Gallop.

"There is no doubt that this will be a spectacular start to season 2010."

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