By Preston Campbell
The first All-Stars match in 2010 was the highlight of my rugby league career.
To now only be a matter of hours away from it returning to its spiritual home on the Gold Coast, when the Indigenous All-Stars play the New Zealand Maori on Saturday night, is a genuinely emotional moment for me.
The first game remains a highlight of my life not because of the match itself, but because of what it meant to so many people, the conversations it started and the difference that it made.
The spirit of reconciliation and understanding was so strong, you could almost touch it.
As with the Commonwealth Games, the Gold Coast community opened its arms and embraced visitors from far and wide. I am certain we will feel that again when our city celebrates different cultures with a decade of All-Stars.
The support of non-Indigenous players and community members made the first game a special celebration on its own.
Wayne Bennett's commitment to coach the NRL All-Stars, with the backing of Darren Lockyer and Cameron Smith, gave extra depth of meaning to the game.
It was a joyous occasion, and people left the ground with a renewed sense of hope of where we were headed – together.
I realised that the support from the Indigenous mob was not just for me, or even the team.
There was a sense of pride that we were representing them, and that the game had recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the special relationship we have with rugby league.
I also realised that we were representing those who had gone before us, and fulfilling their dreams.
That is the spirit the players will take on to the field at Cbus Super Stadium. That spirit will give them the personal strength to take on the might of New Zealand Maori.
The Maori are a team with equal pride in their own family and culture.
People at the game will experience the famous haka. The Indigenous boys will respond with their own dance that they have created in recent years.
It is always a spine-tingling moment as all the players, and all of that emotion come together in a display of pride in their culture and shared histories.
I am proud to have played a part in this special occasion, and prouder still that the people of the Gold Coast get the chance to share and be part of this incredible night.
Ten years on, we are still walking together.
● Tickets for the Preston Campbell Foundation’s Icons of Change breakfast – celebrating 10 years of the NRL All-Stars – at the Sofitel Broadbeach are still available now at $130 for a single seat, or $1250 for a table of 10.
For all enquiries, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone 07 5656 5650.
All proceeds from the event will support the Preston Campbell Foundation.
As part of the fundraising efforts for the Preston Campbell Foundation, which does amazing work for Indigenous youth on the Gold Coast and in the greater community, there is a charity auction being run by Lloyd’s featuring signed jerseys, memorabilia and even a cricket bat autographed by Sir Don Bradman.
You can check out all of the auction items at lloydsauctions.com.au/preston/