Former NRL forward George Rose will happily take a back seat to his “more talented” brother Trent when his younger sibling runs onto Redfern Oval at the Festival of Indigenous Rugby League.
The former Indigenous All Star and premiership-winning Manly Sea Eagles prop will be in the stands on Saturday watching with tremendous pride as Trent and the First Nation Goannas take on the New Zealand Maoris.
George joined the players in camp throughout the week, facilitating workshops as well as sharing his own experiences of representing his people.
“I think it’s always important to celebrate culture and one thing that we do have is a really strong connection with is rugby league,” he said.
“I think the coming together of two cultures like this, over the sport that we all love is a fantastic celebration to start the year.
“Everyone from where we are from always said that Trent was the most talented player out of our family and I don’t think they are wrong in saying that because I rate him very highly. I’m really proud I’ll get to see him out there wearing that jersey.”
First Nation Goannas captain Wes Middleton told NRL.com the festival has created an unbreakable bond between his players.
“With the time we had we’ve worked pretty hard. We’ve got all the basic stuff down pack. Individually everyone can play, we are all naturally gifted. Just that unity and chemistry, that brotherhood and sharing our stories throughout the week has really brought us together,” he said.
“It’s going to be a battle, it’s going to be two cultures coming together and only the strongest will survive. I know that’s going to be the boys.”
First Nation Gems skipper Samartha Leisha said the honour of leading her team is not one she’s taking lightly.
“Being captain of this team means a lot. I’m really nervous but I’m also excited at the same time. Me and my kids were on our way to Toowoomba at the time when BJ (coach Ben Jeffries) rang me,” she said.
“I told the kids and they were cheering in the car and yelling ‘Mum’s going to be captain’. My mum and everyone else told me they were all really proud. They tell me every day they are proud of what I’m doing.”
Maori captain Brad Clark said the festival had resonated with the New Zealand players.
“To be able to represent our country, our heritage, our people and to do it against the Australian Indigenous side is a massive honour,” he said.
“I think to celebrate the cultures, meet new people, showcase some amazing talent and see some young players start to emerge and come through the ranks is what this festival is all about.”
New Zealand Maori Ferns skipper Jocephy Daniels told NRL.com her team would rely on their aggressive pack.
“It’s an opportunity for people to see what talent we have and what we can bring. It’s an honour and privilege to be here,” she said. “It’s going to be an amazing game.”
Matches will be streamed live on the NRL.com website and tickets are still available via NRL.com/tickets.