Rotorua will create history by becoming the first venue in Aotearoa New Zealand to host the Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars.
The Australian Rugby League Commission today confirmed Rotorua as the venue for the 2023 All Stars, the first time the concept will be played outside Australia.
The 2023 contest, to be played at Rotorua International Stadium and featuring men’s and women’s matches, will land on New Zealand shores for the 12th All Stars fixture – and the fifth between the Māori All Stars and the Indigenous All Stars.
The announcement was made this morning by NRL CEO Andrew Abdo, alongside Rotorua Lakes Council, Te Arawa and Indigenous Australia representatives including Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council Chair Katrina Fanning at Te Puia, the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute, Rotorua.
ARLC Chairman Peter V’landys AM said the Commission understood the enormity of Aotearoa New Zealand being able to host the Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars event.
“The All Stars game is incredibly special and important to us, and it’s only just we share it with our New Zealand friends,” Mr V’landys said.
“The Māori All Stars versus Indigenous All Stars game has advanced so much since its inception in 2019 and playing in New Zealand will only continue this rapid growth.”
NRL Chief Executive Andrew Abdo said the event would benefit communities in the Rotorua region and more broadly in New Zealand.
“All Stars brings communities and culture together perhaps like no other week in our calendar. Knowing how important Rotorua is to Māori culture, we are excited to work with the community on becoming the first Aotearoa New Zealand location to host the event,” Mr Abdo said.
“The 2023 All Stars game will coincide with the 50-year anniversary of the first Indigenous Rugby League tour of New Zealand, and will also be 50 years since Arthur Beetson became the first Indigenous athlete to captain Australia.”
Chair of New Zealand Māori Rugby League, John Devonshire, said it was the highest echelon for Māori sport to aspire to. In the last five years it’s always been about bringing the game and people back home.
“It’s a great opportunity for us as Māori, for Te Arawa and Rotorua as hau kainga and tangata whenua. We want to give the Indigenous team an opportunity to enjoy our culture. It’s a community effort, and we want to invite the whole community, and what better place in Aotearoa to do it?
“Rotorua has become the destination of choice for a number of reasons – geographically for its location, we have great relationships with the people, and the facilities are second to none. We are so unbelievably grateful for what Rotorua Lakes Council are doing to host this game at Rotorua International Stadium.”
Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council Chair Katrina Fanning said: “The impact of all 11 of our previous All Stars matches has been vast, both for Indigenous communities and more recently for Maori communities.
“To be able to bring this game to New Zealand will connect the cultural growth and education with so many more people, which is what we strive for each year.”
Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick said All Stars was a significant event for New Zealand and Rotorua.
“This is more than just a game, this is about celebrating our culture, and we feel privileged that Rotorua will be the first place to host the NRL All Stars games in Aotearoa, New Zealand,” Mayor Chadwick said.
“We welcome national and international manuhiri with open arms, to share in the excitement that these games will bring.”
Te Arawa representative, Sir Toby Curtis, said All Stars was a wonderful opportunity for Rotorua.
“I think when it comes to having international relations, especially for Māori, it is ideal that Rotorua be seen as a centre for Māori Rugby League,” Sir Curtis said.
“We are at a stage where people are starting to visit our shores again. We’ve got to become more internationally conscious because the future relies on how we relate to the rest of the world – not just Aotearoa, New Zealand.”
The 2023 NRL Harvey Norman All Stars will feature the women’s and men’s Indigenous and Māori teams. Tickets will be on sale later this year.
The All Stars matches will be broadcast live on the Nine Network, Fox League, Kayo Sports, Sky Sport New Zealand and Watch NRL.