David Shillington with members of the 2010 All Stars match. Photo: PAUL HARRIS
When Canberra Raiders enforcer David Shillington ran out in the inaugural 2010 All Stars clash, he looked forward to a ''cruisey'' game.
How times have changed.
Three years later the Queensland star forward has not only backed the game's relevance ahead of this weekend's unofficial NRL season opener in Brisbane but also its timing.
Shillington was mobbed along with NRL and Indigenous All Stars team members in Ipswich west of Brisbane on Monday at the countdown to Saturday night's showcase event at Suncorp Stadium.
He found it hard to believe the event's future was in doubt after reports emerged that a pre-season nines tournament tipped to kick off in New Zealand next year could steal its thunder.
''Just looking around you can see what impact this has on the local community. If a nines tournament does come along it would be a shame to see this go,'' he said.
''This game means a lot. It may not be a State of Origin game or a Test match. But it is picked by the fans and players want to be a part of it,'' Shillington said.
''I played in the first game and I was stunned at how passionately they (the indigenous team) came out - I thought it might be a cruisey game but they put it on us,'' he said.
''But now we not only know how passionately they play and also what it means to people.''
NRL ambassador and former Broncos forward Petero Civoniceva raised the possibility of the game being held at the end of the year.
''It is tricky, but we are dealing with a few issues. There are guys coming back from rehab, guys being eased into the year after a break,'' he said.
''We already have a pretty full calendar as it is, so where do you slot it in if not at the start of the year?'' AAP