Rugby league: COVID-19 lockdown robs NRL Māori All Stars of Storm stars

The Māori team for the NRL's annual All Star fixture has been decimated by Merlbourne's COVID-19 outbreak, with six Storm stars ruled out, due to border closures.

The Victorian capital's latest five-day lockdown led to Queensland immediately closing its borders to residents in the greater Melbourne area.

That means Storm players Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Jesse and Kenny Bromwich, Brandon Smith, Jahrome Hughes and Reimis Smith are unable to travel to Townsville for next Saturday's game, while the Indigenous team lose superstar speedster Josh Addo-Carr.

One of the most recognisable players in the game, Addo-Carr is a huge loss for both the Indigenous team and the occasion itself.

Last year, the newly-signed Canterbury Bulldog emerged as a team talisman and created an iconic moment for the fixture, when he lifted his jersey to point to the colour of his skin, after scoring a try.

Māori All Stars coach David Kidwell is now searching for half a dozen replacement players, after losing almost a third of his squad.

Earlier on Friday, the NRL began inquiring with clubs to see which players might be placed on standby at short notice.

Veteran props James Tamou and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, hookers Issac Luke and Danny Levi, and Rabbitohs centre Dane Gagai are among those whom Kidwell may call on.

The Central Coast-based NZ Warriors aren't subject to the same border restrictions and have a handful of elgible players, but coach Nathan Brown seems unlikely to allow any of his players to appear, given he's already denied Kodi Nikorima, Tohu Harris and Chanel Harris-Tavita release for selection.

Kidwell is expected to finalise his newlook squad on Monday.

The Melbourne lockdown has also forced the cancellation of the Warriors' first pre-season game against the Storm, which was also scheduled for next Saturday.

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