By Stephen Gallagher
As you all know, I am an avid league fan. Anything that remotely resembles rugby league is somewhat of an interest to me. Of course, this weekend is the inaugural NRL Nines Tournament hosted at the Garden of Eden, Eden Park in Auckland. 16 NRL teams, hundreds of first class players turning up for their club for a massive cash prize for the winner.
A lot of hype surrounds this, people are either really excited to see their team perform, or really excited to have all 16 NRL teams in one venue – either way, this competition is going to be spectacular.
With all squads being named, and the competition only being days away – here’s a couple of reason why you should give up your weekend to the couch and watch the NRL Nines.
THE FIRST EVER NRL AUCKLAND NINES
We’ve had Nines competitions before, but the last one was so long ago it has no real importance. A real and proper pre-season competition has me fizzing! What’s not to like really, because there’s a huge element of the unknown, which makes for a very interesting view. Not knowing just which team will win, or which team will perform the worst. The element of unknown and surprise sure does spice up things.
There are plenty of young guys featuring in this competition, and to look back on this event in a few years – and remembering that you watched a player turn from a National Youth Competition star to a world beater. There are a couple of names especially worth mentioning.
Jackson Hastings of the Roosters, and this kid has pure pace and pure talent. From the Dragons, he may get a shot at first grade this season if he wow’s the crowds in Auckland.
Tui Lolohea of the Warriors, scored two tries in the Warriors trial loss against the Titans last week. One of which was a 50m stunner. Plays five-eighth for the Junior Warriors and was thoroughly impressive in 2013.
Michael Lichaa of the Sharks, a really impressive youngster who is a hooker – but has so much versatility and speed he may be a big talking point come Saturday.
Jack Ahearn of the Raiders, easily one of their best up and coming stars. Has carved up in the Holden Cup for awhile now. Plenty of skills on board.
Well it’s been highly publicised that Brad ‘Freddy’ Fittler has come out of a ten year retirement to play along side the Roosters. On top of Freddy, there’s been the Beaver. Steve Menzies – who seems to have played for forever, racked up over 500 games in 20 years will join Manly’s already strong squad. To see these two play is worth admission alone, but just to see how these old fella’s can go against the bulk and the speed of today’s players will be an interesting watch.
Plenty of comparison articles between the Wellington Sevens and the Auckland Nines have been written over the last three weeks, but after the alcoholic bad wraps and near-300 arrests at the Westpac Stadium last weekend, here’s hoping the costumes have made their way up to Auckland for a fun, family friendly but wildly passionate weekend for fans young and old. There’s no better chance to see any of these clubs on display this year, so it’s important that this event has plenty of great raps – giving it a reputation that will make sure the Nines stay in Auckland for many years to come.
Why not? I mean, what have you got to lose? Fellas, Valentines Day is on Friday – treat her nicely on Friday and you’ll be in for a weekend of Nines action with no nagging. Gather up your mates, make sure he couch cushions are comfy and make it a fun weekend. I know I will be! (trying to, anyway)
Bring on the NRL Auckland Nines!
If you’re a betting man, back the favourites the Warriors, but I’d also say the Panthers, Sharks and Broncos could be in the running also.
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