The decision to introduce a Maori team to the annual All Stars clash last year gave Dane Gagai the opportunity to represent his mother's heritage but it has now created a problem for the South Sydney star that has led to him withdrawing from the upcoming fixture.
Gagai, who had been a regular member of the Indigenous All Stars team until last season, phoned rival coaches Laurie Daley and David Kidwell on Monday night and told them he didn't want to choose one culture over the other.
The Queensland and Australian winger later announced his unavailability for the February 22 clash at Cbus Super Stadium, saying on social media that he didn't feel comfortable playing against either team.
"I'm extremely proud of both my Torres Strait Island and Maori heritage, and am extremely grateful to have been able to represent both cultures," Gagai said. "It's not the last time I will represent either one, I just can't when they play each other."
Daley, who has also lost Brisbane centre Kotoni Staggs with a foot injury sustained in Tonga's historic Test defeat of Australia last November, said he understood Gagai's decision.
"Now that he has played for both sides of his family, he said it was too hard to choose between the two," Daley said.
Brisbane officials confirmed that Staggs would not be able to resume playing before their final trial against Gold Coast at Redcliffe on February 29.
"He had an outstanding season last year but we have got a bit of depth in the backs," Daley said.
Rabbitohs recruit Latrell Mitchell is set to start at fullback for the Indigenous All Stars, but team-mate Cody Walker is in doubt with a knee injury and Souths officials are reluctant for him to play unless he is 100 per cent fit.
Walker captained the Indigenous All Stars last season in the absence of Titans prop Ryan James, who is confident of being cleared to play after recovering from a knee reconstruction.
James was devastated to miss last year's match and is determined to represent the Indigenous All Stars in front of his home crowd on the Gold Coast.
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"The players get a great opportunity to showcase their leadership skills, show what they are capable of doing and inspire other people so it is good," Daley said.
If Walker is out, Jack Wighton is likely to partner either Tyrone Roberts or Ash Taylor in the halves but otherwise the Canberra star will play in the centres, along with James Roberts, Braidon Burns or Jack Roberts.
Daley said Mitchell would then be likely to play fullback.
"As long as we have got centres available he will definitely play fullback," he said. "He will probably start there and we will see how he goes."
With depth in the forwards not as strong as the backs, rookie St George Illawarra prop Josh Kerr is set to play again after being called into the Indigenous squad last year before he had made his NRL debut.
"He is a good kid and he has got a bit of size about him so I hope he kicks on for the Dragons as well," Daley said. "I thought he got a lot of that experience last year and there could be a couple of other young blokes who get an opportunity as well in the forwards."
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