Indigenous grit their way to All-Star win against Maori

Alex Mitchell |

Heavy pressure form the Indigenous All Stars has helped them beat their Maori rivals in Townsville.
Heavy pressure form the Indigenous All Stars has helped them beat their Maori rivals in Townsville.

Latrell Mitchell says the best defensive performance he’s ever seen was what carried his Indigenous All-Stars to a 22-14 win against their Maori counterparts in Townsville.

Far from the free-flowing attacking football fans at Queensland Country Bank Stadium were perhaps hoping for, gutsy goal-line defensive work earned the Indigenous side their victory as they withstood a Maori barrage on Friday night.

Two tries in 10 minutes for Indigenous winger Josh Addo-Carr got his side an early lead, but it was the playmaking of five-eighth Braydon Trindall that won the Preston Campbell Medal for best afield.

The Maori side dominated territory, were tackled 51 times inside the opposition 20m compared with the Indigenous side’s 17, and ran for nearly 300 metres more, but lacked precision deep in attack.

They scored inside four minutes for a 6-0 lead but wouldn’t cross again until the final minute of the contest, when prop Xavier Willison found them a consolation try.

Indigenous captain Mitchell said his side showed an unexpected element of their game.

“With our arsenal in attack, we’ve got the best attacking team in the world, but we showed that we can defend as well,” he said.

“That was the best defensive performance I’ve ever seen. 

“The boys played footy and had fun, that was my clearest message, play simple and back your abilities, be proud of who you are and Bob’s your uncle.”

Josh Addo-Carr.
Josh Addo-Carr had an impact before and during the game, scoring two tries. (Scott Radford-Chisholm/AAP PHOTOS)

Trindall’s stellar combination with club teammate Nicho Hynes would have had Cronulla fans salivating.

The five-eighth put in two delicate kicks that were grounded for tries by Addo-Carr and speedster Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, while Hynes threw a superb cut-out pass to winger Alofiana Khan-Pereira late to seal the win.

Trindall was initially set to play as a makeshift hooker before an injury to Cody Walker saw him move into the halves, Indigenous coach Ronald Griffiths said.

“When Cody pulled out we had no hesitation playing him in the halves,” he said.

“I said to him ‘when the time’s right to step out of the shadows, you will’, and he did it. 

“He really controlled the pace of the game but there was a special effort defensively … those are the sorts of plays that win games, and that’s why he’s got that medal around his neck.”

Mitchell was never far from the action early, his handling error allowing Maori skipper Joe Tapine to produce the game’s opening point with a hulking effort that saw him break three tackles.

But he quickly made amends, cruising up to the Maori line to put Addo-Carr through to score in the corner.

Perhaps the ultimate moment of defensive desperation came when Maori prop Xavier Willison looked clean through to score late in the third term but was dragged down by the much smaller Bailey Biondi-Odo.

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow.
Indigenous All Star Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow was among the early scorers. (Scott Radford-Chisholm/AAP PHOTOS)

Maori coach Adam Blair lamented his side’s inability to break through while they so thoroughly won the territory battle.

“There were moments throughout that game where we had our opportunities, we built enough pressure,” he said.

“But you’ve got to give credit to the Indigenous boys, they scrambled well … we had about 20 minutes nearly on their tryline.

“They worked hard for each other and that’s what this game does when you’re representing your people, something different is on the line.”