Two of the oldest cultures in the world will headline the start of the 2019 NRL season when the Australian Indigenous All-Stars take on the New Zealand Maori All-Stars at AAMI Park in Melbourne on Friday, February 15.

The men’s and women’s NRL Harvey Norman All-Stars double-header was announced today in front of Indigenous and Maori representatives and players, including Josh-Addo Carr and Jesse Bromwich from the Storm together with Nakia Davis-Welsh from the Roosters and Honey Hireme from the Dragons.

NRL head of football Brian Canavan said the new concept had been canvassed among fans and players alike, with strong support for the matches across both fan bases.

“The All-Stars concept has been popular with crowds across the country and abroad since it first commenced back in 2010,” said Canavan.

“In 2019, we’re taking the All-Stars to another level, paying homage to Australian and New Zealand First Nations cultures and celebrating the unique bond between both countries.”

Australian Rugby League chair Linda Burney said the power and pride across all four teams would be on display come February next year.

“Some of the most exciting, energetic and engaging players emanate from both First Nations cultures,” said Burney.

“What better way to celebrate the return of rugby league for another year than to kick off the season with a match that prides itself on being more than just a game; but an opportunity to educate and empower communities long after the full-time whistle.”

Minister for tourism and major events John Eren said he was looking forward to watching the teams go head-to-head in what promises to be an enthralling contest and wonderful event.

“This is more than just a great sporting spectacle. It's a celebration of indigenous culture both on and off the field,” said Eren.

“Major events, such as the Indigenous All-Stars, provide a major boost to our visitor economy by keeping our bars, restaurants and hotels full.”