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Seven Storm All Stars ruled out due to COVID-19 border closure

Seven of the Storm's biggest names have been ruled out of the NRL All Stars clash due to the five-day Victorian lockdown announced on Friday.

Indigenous flyer Josh Addo-Carr and Maori All Stars reps Jesse and Kenny Bromwich, Reimis and Brandon Smith, Jahrome Hughes and Nelson Asofa-Solomona have all been scratched from next Saturday's season-opener in Townsville.

Replacement players will be sourced over the weekend before the two men's sides meet on Monday.

Veteran props James Tamou and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, hookers Issac Luke and Danny Levi, and Rabbitohs centre Dane Gagai (who also has Indigenous heritage) are among those NRL players that remain eligible for the Maori All Stars.

For Maori coach David Kidwell it means almost a third of his squad are now unavailable after Storm and NRL officials spent Friday trying every avenue to get the players into Queensland.

Attempts to secure government travel exemptions proved unsuccessful after Queensland acting premier Steven Miles announced on that the state's borders will be closed at 1am Saturday morning to anyone who has been in the greater Melbourne area in the past 14 days.

The stance follows a five-day "short, sharp circuit breaker" lockdown, as described by Victorian Premier Dan Andrews, being brought in by the government in response to 13 COVID-19 cases being linked to a quarantine hotel.

Victoria's lockdown comes into effect in a bid to quell an outbreak of the UK strain of coronavirus linked to the Melbourne Airport Holiday Inn.

Jahrome Hughes and Josh Addo-Carr at the 2020 All Stars game.
Jahrome Hughes and Josh Addo-Carr at the 2020 All Stars game. ©NRL Photos

The Storm posted on social media on Friday afternoon that "the seven Storm players who were selected to play in the Indigenous and Maori All Stars match are shattered they will miss the game. They will eagerly await another opportunity to proudly represent their culture".

The trial game between the Storm and Warriors that was due to be played next Saturday in Redcliffe is now cancelled.

The travel restrictions have also led to the cancellation of the “Storm x Lightning on the Sunny Coast” event which was scheduled to be held at Sunshine Coast Stadium next Friday but at this stage the February 27 trial against Newcastle at Casey Fields will proceed as planned.

Both All Stars teams were originally scheduled to meet on Monday before a week of training and community visits leading into next Saturday's clash.

Replacements can be sourced from Queensland clubs and NSW-based teams, including the Warriors who are training at the Central Coast, given there are no restrictions on crossing that state border.

The Warriors also have Maori-eligible players Kodi Nikorima, Tohu Harris and Chanel Harris-Tavita in their Terrigal camp after new coach Nathan Brown opted not to release the trio for the All Stars outing.

Warriors forwards Jamayne Taunoa-Brown and Josh Curran have been named in the Indigenous All Stars side.

"It is a selfish decision," Brown told New Zealand's 1News of his call on the Warriors stars last week.

"It’s a decision I made, I spoke to [CEO] Cameron George about why we needed to do it.

"Sometimes it’s hard and I understand why people get disappointed, I get that. I think we have six weeks [to prepare] before we play our first and only trial match.

"And if we let players go and play representative football, well there's a week they're gone in the lead-up and then there's a few days recovery. You lose a week-and-a-half and if they do get a bump it can lead to two weeks.

"I’m a big fan of representative football… and the cultural side of it is quite big but it’s just a decision we needed to make in the short term."

Friday's drama continues ongoing issues for the Storm around the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in Melbourne.

Addo-Carr and George Jennings spent part of their pre-season in Lennox Head after the former did not cross the Victorian border when it was closed on New Years eve, while the latter returned to NSW for the birth of his son.

Nine Storm teammates including Ryan Papenhuyzen and Dale Finucane made their own mad dash back to the Victorian capital before Christmas to avoid being placed in quarantine for the start of pre-season training.

Meanwhile, the NSWRL has announced the round two UNE SG Ball Cup match between Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and Victoria Thunderbolts at Belmore Sports Ground on Saturday has been cancelled after Victoria went into lockdown.