The Harvey Norman All Stars is a shining example of the way Rugby League can positively impact a national agenda while providing real support to individual communities.
Launched on the anniversary of the Federal Government’s apology to the stolen generation in 2010, the Harvey Norman All Stars is an important symbol of the way all Australians can celebrate a proud and unique Indigenous culture hand in hand with a vision for the future that all Australians can share.
In 2012, the emotional inauguration of the Arthur Beetson trophy, honouring the memory of the first Indigenous athlete ever to captain an Australian sporting team, was a poignant reminder of the deep engagement Rugby League has always maintained with Indigenous Australia.
Rugby League is the sport that provides inspiration, sporting and education opportunity and Indigenous communities provide some of the greatest athletes and leaders the game has seen. Players such as Preston Campbell, Laurie Daley, Greg Inglis, the late Arthur Beetson and Lionel Morgan have gone on to become inspiration leaders within the sport and the community.
The Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars is a week-long celebration of Rugby League’s commitment to Indigenous Australia and the broad appeal of the game.
It is an event that recognises the need for constitutional change, the pride of Indigenous communities cheering their team on a national sporting stage and the aspirations of Indigenous youth.
The impact on the field is immense but it’s off the playing field where the concept is creating a real impact 52 weeks of the year, changing the lives on Indigenous youth and making a positive difference in Indigenous communities across the country.
Since its inauguration, the profits from the match form the foundation of a multi-million dollar investment in Indigenous community programs. Programs are aimed towards Indigenous youth and include mentoring sessions, workshops, cultural activities, assistance with learning, behaviour & attendance, self-esteem, leadership, communication and social skills.
North Queensland Cowboys half back Johnathan Thurston has been an integral part of the All Stars concept, playing in each of the four matches played against the NRL All Stars since the concept was brought to life in 2010 and captaining the team since 2011.
Aside from being one of the game’s greatest players, Thurston also plays a vital role as part of the NRLs Indigenous Players leadership group. The Ken Stephen medallist and three times Daly M winner is dedicated to his work in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders communities.
Recognised as a role model, he continues to work hard on a wide range of community activities predominantly encouraging and motivating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to stay in school or take part in education workshops in order to develop a future for themselves.