The 2021 NRL season kicks off with the Indigenous v Māori All Stars in Townsville on February 20 and Indigenous prop Josh Kerr says it will be great to be able to start the year with a big crowd at what is always a special game.
With no restrictions on crowd numbers, ticket sales have already been strong three months out from the event. Tickets are still available from $25 for adults and $50 for families.
"It's awesome to see it back, especially after everything that's been going on," Kerr told NRL.com.
"It's two big strong cultures, the Māori and Indigenous cultures, I'm very grateful it's back on and can't wait to see if it's a packed out crowd.
"We're trying to get back to normality and to kick off the year with something that's a special game to all of us is pretty good.
"To get fans back watching football, it will have been a bit of a break between the last Origin and the next game. It's good to see things getting back to normal with the COVID stuff but even if they don't people sitting home want something to watch and what better way to start than with an All Stars match."
Kerr admitted it was strange playing to either no crowds or very small crowds as the competition eased back after shutdown but the Maroons squad member had the best seats in the house at Origin III in what was the biggest crowd in the world at a sporting event since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared.
"It was awesome to see the crowd really getting behind them and giving them a second wind. I love having crowds there and you don't realise how much noise they make until they're not there," he added.
Having played in the past two All Stars games for one win and one loss, Kerr said the best part was just getting to know some new players and sharing experiences with each other in a camp where the vibe is nothing but positive and respectful.
"Before I'm a player I'm a fan so to go into those camps and rub shoulders with those blokes I've always watched, blokes like Jacky Wighton, I was playing with Joel Thompson last year, it's crazy to have those calibre of players I get to go on with," he said.
"The best thing about it is they're all good blokes. You still get nervous, you go in there and don't know what to expect, they're high profile players and you don't know what they're going to be like, but they're just good people.
"That's what makes it such a good experience, you all want to learn culture, you all teach each other something different about growing up. Just going in and learning and being happy is such a great experience."
NRL head of football Graham Annesley said the level of interest in the match was very promising after 10,000 general public tickets were sold in the first week of sales.
"All-Stars is a unique event on our calendar and we are extremely pleased to see the level of interest it has generated in Townsville and the wider North Queensland community," Annesley said.
"It will be a wonderful week of celebration and community engagement and I'd encourage people to get in quick to ensure they don’t miss out on being a part of it."
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Tickets are available at NRL Tickets.