League: Vatuvei fans' pick for NRL All Stars

Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei was voted on to the NRL All Stars team to play on February 4. Photo / Wayne Drought
Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei was voted on to the NRL All Stars team to play on February 4. Photo / Wayne Drought

Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei has been named as the Auckland-based franchise's selection for the NRL All Stars to play against the Indigenous All Stars at Skilled Park on the Gold Coast on February 4.

The 20-strong squad was announced yesterday and, following the automatic selections of Benji Marshall and Cameron Smith, NRL fans voted to pick one player from each of the 16 NRL clubs before coach Wayne Bennett completed his squad with two choices of his own.

Bennett selected Penrith's Luke Lewis and Dragons halfback Ben Hornby. Other Kiwi internationals in the squad are Adam Blair (Wests Tigers), Jason Nightingale (Dragons), Frank Pritchard (Bulldogs) and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters).

Ten players have been named to the NRL All Stars side for the first time. The Indigenous outfit will be captained by North Queensland's Johnathan Thurston.

This final stage of voting also saw the closest margin in the three-year history of the All Star game deliver a fairytale "representative" comeback to the Cowboys' former international Brent Tate with a spot on the interchange bench.

Tate, who pipped teammate Dallas Johnson by just two votes for the North Queensland spot, was almost forced into retirement in 2010 when he underwent his third knee reconstruction.

New South Wales and Sharks captain Paul Gallen was again the most popular player, gaining more than 8000 votes to be public favourite for the second year in a row, 333 ahead of debutant Cooper Cronk.

ALL THE STARS

NRL All Stars: Josh Dugan (Raiders), Jason Nightingale (Dragons), Jack Reed (Broncos), Michael Jennings (Panthers), Manu Vatuvei (Warriors), Benji Marshall (c) (Tigers), Cooper Cronk (Storm), Kade Snowden (Knights), Cameron Smith (Storm), Luke Bailey (Titans), Nathan Hindmarsh (Eels), David Taylor (Rabbitohs), Paul Gallen (Sharks).

Interchange: Adam Blair (Tigers), Frank Pritchard (Bulldogs), Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Roosters), Tony Williams (Sea Eagles), Brent Tate (Cowboys).

Coach's selections: Luke Lewis (Panthers), Ben Hornby (Dragons).

Indigenous All Stars squad: Johnathan Thurston (c) (Cowboys), Ben Barba (Bulldogs), Jharal Yow Yeh (Broncos), Greg Inglis (Rabbitohs), Justin Hodges (Broncos), Nathan Merritt (Rabbitohs), Chris Sandow (Eels), Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Raiders), Travis Waddell (Raiders), George Rose (Sea Eagles), Sam Thaiday (Broncos), Jamal Idris (Titans), Greg Bird (Titans), Andrew Fifita (Sharks), Cory Paterson (Cowboys), Matthew Bowen (Cowboys), Scott Prince (Titans), Anthony Mitchell (Roosters), Joel Thompson (Raiders), Nathan Peats (Rabbitohs).

- APNZ

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