THE NRL has made moves to save the All Stars exhibition game by revamping the selection criteria with international flavour.
The Indigenous All Stars will tackle the Wayne Bennett-coached World All Stars for the first time at Suncorp Stadium on February 13 next year.
Previously called the NRL All Stars, the World team will included four players from each of Australia, New Zealand and England to go with a combined six from Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and PNG.
The decision to increase the Pacific Islands and Kiwi contingent has come after what was shaping to be a disaster on the Gold Coast earlier this year.
A crowd of only 15,000 was expected until a massive publicity drive eventually saw 23,177 attend the game which featured the likes of Johnathan Thurston, Greg Inglis and Paul Gallen.
All Stars founder Preston Campbell backed the decision to revamp the concept.
“It was a slow start to ticket sales this year but we got a good crowd at the Gold Coast,” he said,
“This will be a breath of fresh air. Change is always good.”
While changes have been made to next year’s game, just where it goes after that is unknown.
The game was left off a packed 2014 calendar and NRL head of football Todd Greenberg said its future was uncertain.
The All Stars was first played in 2010 and has never been contested outside of South East Queensland but Bennett said it may be time to take the show on the road.
“I’ve got no doubt other states and cities are queuing up for it,” he said.
“It’s a seven-day concept, especially for indigenous people. I’m pleased it’s in Queensland.
“I spent three years in Newcastle and there’s a big indigenous population there who would embrace it.”
The All Stars game has always been warmly embraced by the players but Bennett said the World All Stars brand would give his side greater motivation.
“We needed a bit of innovation. It gives them something to play for,” he said.
“It’s about giving back.
“There’s no greater player than Johnathan Thurston right now. Everybody admires him greatly.
“I’m proud the game wants to give something back. I’m doing it as a coach and the players do it as players.
“I’ve never had a problem with a player not wanting to play in the game. I’ve had a few problems with club officials but not with players because we feel the same.
“It means so much to them and the indigenous Australians. We can’t measure that but we know it’s right and we should continue to do it for as long as we can.”
Bennett’s Broncos will begin pre-season training on November 16 as they look to erase the memories of last month’s grand final loss to North Queensland, who will begin preparations on November 30.
The 2016 rugby league calendar will begin with the Auckland Nines on February 6-7 while the Broncos and Cowboys will play in the expanded World Club Series in England on February 20-21.