Footy is officially back with the Maori team beating the Aboriginal Boys 16-10 in a thrilling All Stars clash that was full of fireworks.
Raiders star Jordan Rapana has been flagged twice for shoulder charges, while Sharks enforcer Andrew Fifita was booked in his return game.
Rapana’s second hit sparked a scrum and he was thrown in alongside Fifta who were playing their first game in 181 days following a career-threatening throat injury.
Maori skipper Joe Tapine was huge alongside co-captain Kodi Nikorima, while Indigenous duo Josh Curran and Will Smith came up short in the HIAs.
Read on for the three big takeaways from the clash.
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KODI PARTICIPATION CLAIM
Kodi Nikorima has pushed his case to start in halves for the Warriors this season after a standout performance in the No.7 jersey.
Nikorima has no interest in being used as a utility in 2022 and the former New Zealand international half-back has shown he still has plenty of tricks.
Warriors coach Nathan Brown has four playmakers to choose from this season: Nikorima, Shaun Johnson, Chanel Harris-Tavita and Ash Taylor.
Kiwi legend Benji Marshall told Fox League that Nikorima didn’t hurt his chances on Saturday night with a try, a tackle and a line-breaking assist.
“I think he had a really positive start to the game, as a running back you want to see him get tackled a few times,” Marshall said.
“He had some good kicks and some not so good kicks, but in terms of organizing your team and being the guy who really brings in the points and gets the team to the places they need on the field, I think he did a great job.
“What’s interesting to me is what’s going to happen with the Warriors. They have four players playing in the halves.
“I don’t know how they fit four in two but it was an opportunity for Cody to play in the halves, he did it internationally and he did it again here tonight .
“I’m sure he wanted to show he wanted that starting position in the first round.”
RAPANA REPORTED, TWICE
Jordan Rapana has been flagged twice for the same infraction and it could give Raiders coach Ricky Stuart a headache in the first round.
Rapana was flagged for shoulder charges on David Fifita and Jesse Ramien in the first half, the second of which sparked a scrum.
Canberra lost full-back Harley Smith-Shields to a season-ending ACL injury last week, while winger Bailey Simonsson left to join the Eels in the summer.
They signed Nick Cotric from the Bulldogs, but Stuart will be out of options if Rapana is suspended.
The star winger cleaned up Fifita after passing the ball in the first half and Fox League analysts Gorden Tallis and Marshall suspect he could be in trouble.
“You should see other angles, but what’s a shoulder charge – tuck the arm in and punch – I think he tucks it in there a bit, maybe with that streak he has a case to answer,” Tallis said.
“With the second one I don’t think he did and that’s where the explosion happened… They probably thought it was another shoulder charge and they were defending their teammates .”
Marshall agreed that the first hit could land Rapana in hot water, but described the second hit as “just a good save”.
“It looks like it because of his arm action, but what you don’t see is Patrick Herbert taking him out the side and Jesse Ramien is one of the hardest players to approach in the competition” , Marshall said.
“I thought it was just a big save from the Maori team. I actually believe he was convicted for the wrong shoulder load, the one before was worse than the second time.
Joe Tapine delivered an inspiring man-of-the-match performance in his first time as team captain.
Tapine was all over the place and set up the first try before scoring the third, which proved the match winner.
The 27-year-old also finished with 111 yards on 14 carries, three tackle jumps, a line jump and a line jump assist.
“I think the added responsibility of captaining tonight really helped Joseph, there were a lot of positives in his game,” Marshall said.
“Especially in the small areas, his defense was solid, he carried the ball well.
“The subtleties he uses in his game, he just got stronger and stronger and I honestly believe that in the future he could be one of our best players.
“He’s just one of those types of players and he reminds me of a young Gorden Tallis.
The Kiwi striker was the only unvaccinated All Stars player and Stuart will be desperate to convince the massive forward to get stung so he doesn’t miss any football this NRL season.
MATCH CENTRE: Indigenous vs Maori All Star Live Updates, Score, Video
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Indigenous All Stars:
1. Will Kennedy 2. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 3. Jesse Ramien 4. Brent Naden 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Nicholas Hynes 7. Braydon Trindall 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Reuben Cotter 10. Ryan James 11. David Fifita 12. Tyrell Fuimaono 13. Josh Curran 14. Albert Kelly 15. Will Smith 16. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown 17. Josh Kerr Reservations: 18. Selwyn Cobbo 19. Tyrell Sloan 20. Shaq Mitchell
Maori All Stars
1. Jordan Rapana 2. Morgan Harper 3. Dylan Walker 4. Reimis Smith 5. Patrick Herbert 6. Chanel Harris-Tavita 7. Kodi Nikorima 8. Joseph Tapine 9. Erin Clark 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Kenneath Bromwich 12. Briton Nikora 13. Jazz Tevaga 14. Esan Marsters 15. Royce Hunt 16. TC Robati 17. Kevin Proctor Reservations: 18. Tukupa Hau Tapuha 19. Jayden Nikorima 20. Wiremu Greig
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