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The NRL has today launched a Festival of Indigenous Rugby League program to take the place of the prestigious pre-season Rugby League All Stars game following every World Cup year.

Key All Stars figures Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith, Greg Inglis, Preston Campbell, Wayne Bennett, Laurie Daley, Darren Lockyer and ARL Indigenous Council Chair, the Hon. Linda Burney MP, today said the decision to rest the match in 2014 demonstrated the respect players have for the All Stars concept as well as reinforcing Rugby Leagues commitment to Indigenous communities.

Indigenous All Stars captain Thurston said the playing group fully supported the week-long festival ahead of a return to the elite All Stars match in 2015.

The players are 100 per cent behind the All Stars, said Thurston.

We love everything involved in the week, but we only want to see the match held if it can be done properly and played in the spirit and standard that it has been over the past four years.

If the All Stars was just another game you could get away with playing it under-prepared but it is played at such a high level of intensity, almost like an Origin game, that you could not do it justice off the back of a World Cup with such little preparation.

It means a lot that everyone has listened to how much All Stars means to the players and its credibility has not been compromised by resting the event in 2014.

Im looking forward to doing what I can for the Festival of Indigenous Rugby League which should be a huge week in Newcastle. I cant wait until were all back in action in the 2015 game.

NRL All Stars and Storm skipper Smith said: We all understand the significance of the All Stars match and the need to preserve its place in the game.

The challenge is to find a balance between representative football, player welfare, community expectations and the various other commitments.

We are extremely pleased the players have a voice, along with canvassing the thoughts and opinions of a wide range of influential key stakeholders to form this consensus.

Personally I agree with resting the game. This will ensure the game maintains its place as an elite representative fixture, which was simply not achievable with approximately 120 NRL players engaged in the World Cup this year.
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