New Warriors coach Nathan Brown says he will "cop the heat" for his decision not to release players to the Māori All Stars for this month’s clash with the Indigenous All Stars in Townsville.
It will be the first time the team will feature no Warriors players in the annual clash. Meanwhile, two Warriors – Jamayne Taunoa-Brown and Josh Curran – have been allowed to join the Indigenous All Stars.
1 NEWS can reveal coach David Kidwell had requested releases for the experienced Tohu Harris and Kodi Nikorima, while Chanel Harris-Tavita was set to make his Māori All Stars debut.
The Māori All Stars will feature players from 10 clubs, including six players from the defending champion Melbourne Storm.
But the Warriors coach says that because the club’s New Zealand-based players only joined its Australian group on January 3, they are already behind other clubs in terms of preparing for the upcoming season.
With several new faces in the squad the Warriors are trying to build combinations and the All Stars fixture takes place on the same day as the Warriors’ only trial game, against the Storm.
"I think we have six weeks [to prepare] before we play our first and only trial match," Brown said.
"And if we let players go and play representative football, well there's a week they're gone in the lead-up and then there's a few days recovery.
“You lose a week-and-a-half and if they do get a bump it can lead to two weeks.
“I’m a big fan of representative football… and the cultural side of it is quite big but it’s just a decision we needed to make in the short term.”
The Māori All Stars have just named veteran Benji Marshall for the first time but the decision by the Warriors has put a dampener on things for NZ Māori Rugby League Kaumātua, Hemana Waaka.
“I think that is an ignorance in terms of releasing the desires of Māori people to represent their race,” Waaka said.
“The players acknowledge this is the only time they can get together as a whānau, as a rōpu, as Māori.
“And recognise who they are in terms of the different tribes and the different history that goes behind them.”
But the Warriors hope this is a "one-off" due to a disrupted pre-season and insist they will continue to support the All Stars teams moving forward.
It’s understood Warriors players wanted to represent Kidwell’s side but were also part of the decision-making process.
“It is a selfish decision,” said Brown. “It’s a decision I made, I spoke to Cameron George about why we needed to do it.
“Sometimes it’s hard and I understand why people get disappointed, I get that. But head coaching is not a popularity contest and sometimes you’ve got to make decisions which you know are the best interests of your club, but they affect other people. And that’s just the way it is sometimes, and I understand that I’ve got to cop the heat that comes with that.”