Dallin Watene-Zelezniak has been ruled out of the Maori All Stars team with a knee injury.
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak has been ruled out of the Maori All Stars team with a knee injury.

Kiwis skipper withdraws from All Stars match

NEW Zealand captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak has been ruled out of contention for the Maori All Stars team with a knee injury.

The Panthers star had off-season surgery after returning from a Test series in England with the Kiwis and has announced he needs more time to heal before the season starts.

In an announcement on the Panthers' website, Watene-Zelezniak said he was gutted to have to miss the anticipated clash on February 15 at AAMI Park.

"I'm pretty upset, that was the first thing I asked is whether I'd be right for the All Stars game because it's one I really wanted to play, being the first one," he said.

"I'm pretty disappointed, I just need good break, my knee needs a good break and my body needs a good break going into round 1. It sucks but that's footy, that's life.

"That will always be a goal of mine now to play in that team. I'm pretty gutted I won't get that chance."

The proud Kiwi captained New Zealand for the first time in 2018 and knows how important the Maori culture is to rugby league fans, particularly as they face the Indigenous All Stars for the first time.

"It's massive. Maori culture is pretty special. We learnt a lot through Hakkas and how to lay hangis and those kinds of thing. It would have been a good opportunity for me to represent my family and the heritage that they have but as I said, it's still a goal of mine."

Voting for teams is open now with a team announcement expected late next week.

The game will be televised live on Fox League, following the women's game on Friday, February 15.