By Stephen Gallagher
The third edition of the NRL Auckland Nines is hitting Eden Park this coming weekend. If we cast our minds back to last year – the South Sydney Rabbitohs played out an EPIC thriller in the final against the Cronulla Sharks. Who could forget that mammoth sideline conversion by Valentine Holmes to send it in to over time? Magic!
The Rabbitohs went on to win, after a great 2014 where they took the Premiership home too.
Now it’s 2016, all the clubs are ready to rip in to this fantastic tournament hosted at the Garden Of Eden. Oh, with a new sponsor too, Downer taking over Dick Smith who made dicks of themselves.
Anyway, what you’re about to read is a team list for each club, and a player or two to keep your eyes on this Waitangi Weekend.
Brisbane Broncos: 1. Darius Boyd, 2. Corey Oates, 3. Jaymayne Isaako, 4. Tom Opacic, 5. Carlin Anderson, 6. Darren Nicholls, 7. Sam Scarlett, 8. Sam Thaiday (c), 9. Andrew McCullough, 10. Adam Blair, 11. Alex Glenn, 12. Jai Arrow, 13. Keegan Hipgrave, 14. Francis Molo, 15. Caleb Timu, 16. Joseph Ofahengaue, 17. Todd Murphy, 18. Jonus Pearson.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Corey Oates. This rangy second-rower-come-winger is a star. His 2015 season was fantastic, and with a bit more space on the field he will be a treat to watch. Ball skills and pace, you can’t ask for more.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs: 1. Tyrone Phillips, 2. Jarrod McInally, 3. Chase Stanley, 4. Craig Garvey, 5. Matt Frawley, 6. Kerrod Holland, 7. Dane Chisholm, 8. Danny Fualalo, 9. Adam Elliott, 10. Tim Browne, 11. Tony Williams, 12. Sam Kasiano, 13. Greg Eastwood (c), 14. Pat O’Hanlon, 15. Shaun Lane, 16. Reimis Smith, 19. Ruebenn Rennie, 20. Brad Abbey
KEEP AN EYE ON: Former New Zealand Warriors NYC star Brad Abbey, sporting a sleeve tattoo and a little more size over the off-season, he has bags of tricks and plenty of pace to boot. A genuine star in the making who if can light up this weekend, may find himself in a good position to crack first grade this season.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles: 1. Jayden Hodges, 2. Matt Parcell, 3. Tim Moltzen, 4. Brayden Wiliame, 5. Jamie Buhrer, 6. Nathan Green, 7. Isaac John, 8. Tony Satini, 9. Tom Symonds, 10. Tom Trbojevic, 11. Brenton Lawrence, 12. Fabian Goodall, 13. Jorge Taufua, 14. Wof Lavaka, 15. Jake Trbojevic (c), 16. Feleti Mateo, 17. Blake Leary, 18. Jesse Ramien.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Tom Trbojevic. This kid is money! Getting a run in first grade last year along side his prop brother who captains this Nines side, he has long legs and a swerving running style that will leave and has left plenty of opposition behind. Pass this man the ball and just sit back and watch him go!
New Zealand Warriors: 1. Roger Tuivasa Sheck, 2. Ryan Hoffman, 3. Jacob Lillyman, 4. David Fusitu’a, 5. Solomone Kata, 6. Tuimoala Lolohea, 7. Shaun Johnson (c), 8. Charlie Gubb, 9. Henare Wells, 10. Konrad Hurrell, 11. Ben Matulino, 12. Ken Maumalo, 13. Jonathan Wright, 14. Jeff Robson, 15. Sam Lisone, 16. Blake Ayshford, 17. Albert Vete, 18. Ata Hingano.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Everyone expects this to be the Shaun Johnson show, but I have high expectations on Henare Wells. Former Newtown Jet, he is a jet himself. Such pace mixed with confidence, this prolific try scorer knows how to find the try line. He is electric in any side, and could score plenty of four-pointers for the Warriors in this tournament.
Melbourne Storm: 1. Curtis Scott, 2. Young Tonumaipea, 3. Richie Kennar, 4. Cameron Munster, 5. Marika Koriobete, 6. Blake Green (c), 7. Brodie Croft, 8. Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 9. Ben Hampton, 10. Mark Nicholls, 11. Kenny Bromwich, 12. Tohu Harris, 13. Dale Funicane, 14. Nafe Seluini, 15. Jeremy Hawkins, 16. Dean Britt, 17. Joe Stimson, 18. Tony Tumusa.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Nafe Seluini. Avid Warriors fans may remember this name, a NYC-winning hooker for the Junior Warriors who, out of dummy half causes major headaches for sides. Selected for the Storm this season as Cameron Smith cover, he gets his first chance to impress at the nines, and his darts out of the ruck can break a game open.
Parramatta Eels: 1. Corey Norman (c), 2. Semi Radradra, 3. Vai Toutai, 4. John Folau, 5. Bureta Faraimo, 6. Luke Kelly, 7. Mitch Cornish, 8. Junior Paulo, 9. Cameron King, 10. Peni Terepo, 11. Manu Ma’u, 12. David Gower, 13. Tepai Moeroa, 14. Bevan French, 15. Matt Woods, 16. Ryan Morgan, 17. Kelepi Tanginoa, 18. Cody Nelson.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Semi Radradra. We all know just how big, strong, powerful, destructive this bloke is – and I will expect nothing less than seeing him bump off the opposition and run over some poor souls on his way to the try line in the Nines.
Sydney Roosters: 1. Latrell Mitchell, 2. Daniel Tupou, 3. Brendan Elliot, 4. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 5. Joe Burgess, 6. Braith Anasta (c), 7. Tyler Cornish, 8. Isaac Liu, 9. Ian Henderson, 10. Abraham Papalii, 11. Vincent Leuluai, 12. Eloni Vunakece, 13. Nat Butcher, 14. Connor Watson, 15. Joseph Manu, 16. Nathan Smith, 17. Joey Lussick, 18. Omar Slaimankhel.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Latrell Mitchell. He is the future of this club, and will be a handy replacement for RTS for the Chooks. Spent plenty of time watching him in awe as he blew teams apart from the back in the Holden Cup. Also, note Braith Anasta comes back and captains the side!
South Sydney Rabbitohs: 1. Alex Johnston, 2. Michael Oldfield, 3. Bryson Goodwin, 4. Ed Murphy, 5. Cameron Mcinnes, 6. Cody Walker, 7. Damien Cook, 8. John Sutton,9. Thomas Burgess, 10. Kyle Turner, 11. Jason Clark, 12. Paul Carter, 14. John Olive, 15. Kirisome Auvaá, 16. Hymel Hunt, 17. Jack Gosiewski, 18. Zane Musgrove, Cheyne Whitelaw.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Damien Cook. He filled in for the Bulldogs late last year and was more impressive than Michael Lichaa was all season. Finding a new club will be the fire that lights his career, and will be a great addition for the Bunnies and will make a great Nines player.
Newcastle Knights: 1. Jake Mamo, 2. Nathan Ross, 3. Jaelen Feeney, 4. Akuila Uate, 6. Brock Lamb, 7. Will Pearsell, 8. Pauli Pauli, 9. Tyler Randell (c), 10. Daniel Saifiti, 11. Korbin Sims, 12. Robbie Rochow (c), 13. Jacob Saifiti, 14. Sione Mata’utia, 15. Joseph Tapine, 16. Tariq Sims(c), 17. Chanel Mata’utia, 18. Danny Levi, 19. Pat Mata’utia.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Three sets of brothers! The Mata’utia’s, the Saifiti’s and the Sims brothers. That’s impressive for a nines squad! So don’t be fooled if Sims passes to Sims!
North Queensland Cowboys: 1. Matthew Bowen, 2. Kyle Feldt, 3. Justin O’Neill, 4. Kane Linnett, 5. Antonio Winterstein, 6. Lachlan Coote, 7. Ray Thompson, 8. John Asiata, 9. Jake Granville, 10. James Tamou, 11. Gavin Cooper (c), 12. Ethan Lowe, 13. Jason Taumalolo, 14. Michael Morgan, 15. Rory Kostjasyn, 16. Coen Hess, 17. Matthew Wright, 18. Gideon Gela-Mosby.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Matty Bowen. The sherrif is back in town, and he’s taking names! “Fatty” Bowen took a while to light up his pension cheque in the UK – but an illustrious NRL career and plenty of pace at the back is going to boost this Cowboys team.
Penrith Panthers: 1. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 2. Joshua Mansour, 3. Waqa Blake, 4. Robert Jennings, 5. Te Maire Martin, 6. Sione Katoa, 7. William Smith, 8. Suaia Matagi, 9. James Segeyaro, 10. Jeremy Latimore, 11. Bryce Cartwright, 12. Isaah Yeo, 13. Elijah Taylor, 14. Corey Harawira-Naera, 15. Benjamin Garcia, 16. Zach Dockar-Clay, 17. Chris Smith, 18. Moses Leota.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Te Maire Martin. I love this kid, as an Under 20’s Kiwis playmaker, and a former Wests Tigers junior – he gets his first chance to make an impression in this powerful Panthers outfit. He can run a backline on point and scores plenty of good tries. Footwork like Marshall and a kicking game like Lockyer.
Wests Tigers: 1. Chris Lawrence (c), 2. Justin Hunt, 3. Tim Simona, 4. Kevin Naiqama, 5. Josh Addo Carr, 6. Jack Littlejohn, 7. Josh Drinkwater, 8. Ava Seumanufagai, 9. Manaia Cherrington, 10. Jack Buchanan, 11. Kyle Lovett, 12. Tyler Cassel, 13. Sauaso Sue, 14. Lamar Liolevave, 15. Michael Chee Kam, 16. Rod Griffin, 17. Nathan Milone, 18. Watson Heleta.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Justin Hunt. In his limited NRL experience, he’s cuaght the ball and ran it fast and ran it with plenty of power. He doesn’t do anything fancy, but he does deliver plety of yardage and is hard to stop when he gets going. A great asset for the depleted Tigers.
Canberra Raiders: 1. Jordan Rapana, 2. Kato Ottio, 3. Jarrod Croker (c), 4. Brenko Lee, 5. Sisa Waqa, 6. Lachlan Croker, 7. Sam Williams, 8. Shannon Boyd, 9. Kurt Baptiste, 10. Paul Vaughan, 11. Jason Croker, 12. Jarrad Kennedy, 13. Luke Bateman, 14. Thomas Cronan, 15. Mitch Barnett, 16. Jack Williams, 17. Zac Santo, 18. Rhys Kennedy.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Jason Croker. This hard-bastard styled player from the past is going to be good fun to watch. A hard nugget of work ethic, he was a star in his day, and I am sure the aura around him will give these Raiders a boost.
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks: 1. Ben Barba, 2. Jordan Drew, 3. Gerard Beale, 4. Ricky Leutele, 5. Mitch Brown, 6. Jack Bird, 7. Chad Townsend, 8. Matt Prior, 9. Matt McIlwrick, 10. Sam Tagataese, 11. Luke Lewis (c), 12. Joseph Paulo, 13. Chris Heighington (c), 14. David Fifita, 15. Kurt Capewell, 16. Jayden Brailey, 17. Josh Cleeland, 18. Bessie Aufaga-Toomaga.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Luke Lewis. Captain Luke is always such a competitor. Since his days on the wing to Penrith, to being a second-row stalwart. When Luke Lewis is involved, there’s always something going on – and the ball is always live. Such a versatile option.
Gold Coast Titans: 1. Anthony Don, 2. David Mead, 3. Nene McDonald, 4. Brian Kelly, 5. Greg Leleisiuao, 6. Ashley Taylor, 7. Tyrone Roberts, 8. Agnatius Paasi, 9. Matthew Srama, 10. Jeff Lynch, 11. Chris McQueen, 12. Greg Bird, 13. Lachlan Burr, 14. Daniel Mortimer (c), 15. Shane Wright, 16. Nathaniel Peteru, 17. Shannon Walker, 18. Nathan Davis.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Nathaniel Peteru. This man is as big as the goal posts and will be just as hard to bring down. What he lacks in experience he makes up for in the unknown. Can hold the ball like a peanut and offload at will. Dangerous!
St George Illawarra Dragons: 1. Josh Dugan (c), 2. Reuban Garrick, 3. Euan Aitken, 4. Tim Lafai, 5. Kurt Mann, 6. Drew Hutchinson, 7. Josh McCrone, 8. Dunamis Lui, 9. Mitch Rein, 11. Jacob Host, 12. Jake Marketo, 13. Jack de Belin, 14. Kiti Glymin, 15. Kalifa Faifai Loa, 16. Matt Duffy, 17. Sebastine Ikahihifo, 18. Jay Gallagher, 19. Tyrone McCarthy.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Tim Lafai. On display with his new club and has plenty to prove. A solid player for the Doggies, the options in this Red V backline will be endless for Lafai. Give him some space from a Josh Dugan offload and you will be punished I assure you.
There is some bloody good talent on display this year! It’s always so tough to pick who’s going to win this.
Of course there will be plenty of eager eyes on the hosts, the Warriors who’s NRL Nines squad is good enough to win it. Stacked with talent and pace, and of course SJ and RTS – no one will be surprised if they go the whole way.
HUNUA POOL PLACINGS:
- Warriors 2. Bulldogs 3. Sea Eagles 4. Broncos
WAIKEKE POOL PLACINGS:
- Roosters 2. Eels 3. Rabbitohs 4. Storm
RANGITOTO POOL PLACINGS:
- Cowboys 2. Panthers 3. Tigers 4. Knights
PIHA POOL PLACINGS:
- Dragons 2. Titans 3. Sharks. 4. Raiders
So I think it’s between four teams – the Dragons, Warriors, Cowboys and Roosters.
This is a great way to kick off what it going to be another brilliant NRL season, and if you see a random hairy guy watching all the games very intensely, that is me – so say hello! I am in Bay 311!
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