Touch Federation Australia (TFA) today confirmed that a mixed touch fixture will be the curtain-raiser to the NRL All Stars event in Melbourne next February.
The match will feature an indigenous team and a Māori team selected by the TFA High Performance Unit. Touch Football Australia told Te Kāea in a statement that budget constraints mean they "will not be able to afford to fly Māori players from NZ to Melbourne."
We're excited that there will be a Mixed Touch curtain-raiser to the NRL Harvey Norman All-Stars 2019! The TFA High Performance team will be selecting the Indigenous Australian and Maori teams, which will be announced early 2019. Tag someone who should go to this epic triple-header (Touch, NRLW, NRL), starting at 4pm on Friday 15th February at AAMI Park, Melbourne!
The TFA says there are many Māori players currently in the Australian and NRL Touch Premiership squads and they will be selecting from that pool of talent.
The teams are expected to be announced in early January and the match will open the NRL All Stars program, involving indigenous women's and men's rugby league teams at AAMI Park, Melbourne on the 15th of February.
Neither Māori Touch NZ nor Touch NZ were involved in the decision to hold a touch match. However TFA hopes that budgets and logistics allow for the inclusion of NZ-based players if touch is included again in future years.