With Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand announcing their withdrawal from the 2021 Rugby League World Cup in England, our Indigenous All Stars have put their hand up to represent.

The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) and New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) made the decision to pull out of the tournament because of safety concerns surrounding COVID-19 in the United Kingdom.

ARLC Chair Peter V’landys said the pandemic posed too great a risk to players and officials.

“In the current environment, the risks to the safety, health and wellbeing of the players and officials travelling from Australia to participate in the tournament this year are insurmountable,” he said.

The shocking decision has left a hole for representation for both Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand, which has led to the Indigenous All Stars and the Māori All Stars standing up to fill those spots.

Melbourne Storm winger and proud Wiradjuri and Gunggandji man Josh Addo-Carr revealed there has been conversations with NRL executives about sending a team over.

“Yeah, we had a little meeting with [NRL chief] Andrew Abdo a couple of days ago, and just discussed potentially putting the Indigenous All Stars and Māori All Stars in the World Cup,” Addo-Carr said.

“We just thought it would be a great opportunity to represent our cultures on the big stage.”

“[Discussions] come out positive, but still got to wait to hear back from Andrew [Abdo] and the NRL to get that approved.”

If the side gets approved, the likes of South Sydney Rabbitohs stars Cody Walker and Dane Gagai have a good chance of representing the Indigenous side.

Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett said it wouldn’t be his right to “deprive” any of his Rabbitohs players of competing on the world stage.

“I would not prevent any player I’m coaching from going,” Bennett told reporters.

“If he wanted to go and it meant that much to him and the competition was on, I don’t feel I have that right personally.

“It’s a complete double standard. If a player wants to play and the club says he can’t, but if a player doesn’t want to play and the game says you’ve got to play. There’s got to be a balance there.”

The Rugby League World Cup begins on October 23 with England first set to play Samoa.

By Teisha Cloos