Former NRL player Adam Blair (Ngāpuhi, Te Rarawa) has been named the head coach of the Māori All-Stars ahead of the 2024 edition of the All-Stars matchup between the Māori and indigenous teams.
NRL.com says Blair takes over from 2023 coach Ben Gardiner, who is unavailable due to work with the 2023 NRL Premiership winners, the Penrith Panthers.
The 37-year-old former Kiwi has been in the Māori All-Stars as captain in 2019 and 2020.
It’s a full-circle and historical moment, in that he is the first person to have played and coached for the Māori team.
Blair played 331 games in the NRL before retiring at the end of 2020. Since then, he has coached at the junior level for the Warriors and, most recently, as Gardiner’s assistant with the Māori All-Stars.
Despite thinking next year he would be learning more from Gardiner, Blair says he’s excited for the work ahead in the top job.
“Over the years with the All-Stars, I have seen coaches like David Kidwell and Stacey Jones be able to create a space where people can come in and feel part of it,” Blair told NRL.com.
“The main thing for me is to make sure I ride on the back of what has already been created, but at the same time add my little flavour to it.
“I want to thank Aotearoa New Zealand Māori Rugby League for giving me this opportunity; it’s a role that I hold in the highest regard.
‘Feels the wairua’
“Adam is an ex-player, a person with mana, he really feels the wairua – the spirit that is associated with the jersey – having worn it,” Aotearoa NZ Māori Rugby League chair John Devonshire said.
“He will identify all the extras, that this is not just about football, and understand the value of what a cultural tikanga (customary system of values and practices) approach brings.”
“It’s my passion to give back to my people and there is no thought in my mind that it’s a one-season gig,” Blair said.
“It’s an honour and a privilege and there is no better place for me to start off coaching in the top grade.”
The 2024 edition of the NRL All-Stars matchup will happen in Townsville, Queensland across the ditch on February 16.