Here it is, the second part of our Auckland Nines Preview and with the remaining 8 teams to preview all naming relatively strong sides – some better than others – it will be an entertaining competition.
So, here are the next 8 teams:
North Queensland Cowboys: 1. Lachlan Coote 2. Zac Santo 3. Antonio Winterstein 4. Kane Linnett 5. Javid Bowen 6. Michael Morgan 7. Robert Lui 8. Jason Taumalolo 9. Ray Thompson 10. James Tamou 11. Gavin Cooper (C) 12. Tariq Sims 13. Joel Reithmuller 14. Rory Kostjaysn 15. Kyle Feldt 16. Curtis Rona.
Ricky’s View: Going with a side that is tremendously balanced with experienced players and some of their most exciting talents, the Cowboys are a team that can push for a finals berth in the competition, if they play well enough. With the creative play of Rob Lui, Ray Thompson and Lachlan Coote from the back, mixed with the forward prowess of James Tamou, Jason Taumalolo and Tariq Sims, the Cowboys are well equipped to perform well at the tournament.
As for the player to watch, it’s hard to go past Zac Santo. Perhaps one of the best talents to come out of the system in recent years, Santo’s versatility is matched by his speed, flair and pure drive to succeed. In a few short years, it would not be surprising to see him become a mainstay in first-grade.
Parramatta Eels: Willie Tonga, Kenny Edwards, Bureta Faraimo, John Folau, Manu Ma’u, Fuifui Moimoi, Corey Norman, Pauli Pauli, Joseph Paulo, Nathan Peats, Api Pewhairangi, Semi Radradra, Chris Sandow, Ken Sio, Peni Terepo and Vai Toutai.
Ricky’s View: Another team that has gone with youth and experience and a team that has a lot to prove – even in a tournament like this – given the way they have gone in the past couple of seasons. With a bit of pressure on them, the Eels will look to the likes of Fuifui Moimoi, Willie Tonga and Chris Sandow to lead from the front. With the format the way it is, it is the perfect platform for the nippy, exuberant and ad-lib play of Chris Sandow to shine and whether he does so, will affect how well the Eels perform and looking at their side, it is one that can progress.
Having watched the Eels young guns closely over the years, the player to watch is a no-brainer. John Folau. The younger brother of Israel Folau has inherited many traits from his older sibling and is a joy to watch both in full flight and when hitting the ball up. Whilst still developing as a player both physically and mentally, Folau’s offload ability and fending prowess is quite similar to one the game’s best centres, Justin Hodges.
Penrith Panthers: 1. Matt Moylan 2. Wes Naiqama 3. Josh Mansour 4. Isaac John 5. Kevin Naiqama 6. Jamie Soward 7. Jeremy Latimore 8. Sam McKendry 9. Kevin Kingston 10. Tyrone Peachey 11. Lewis Brown 12. Adam Docker 13. Regan Campbell-Gillard 14. Eto Nabuli 15. George Jennings 16. Issah Yeo.
Ricky’s View: The Panthers have named a talented side across the board and whilst it is not teeming with experience like a few other sides, they have some crafty veterans of their own and will be looking to recruit Jamie Soward especially to perform. With the chance to make his first club appearance for the Panthers and with a point to prove, the pressure is on him – the question is, will he handle it or crumble under it?
The Panthers are well known for producing solid juniors but their player to watch is one that has been in their ranks for a year and that is Eto Nabuli. An electrifying winger with speed, agility and strength, he is the robust, bullocking outside back that a format like this suits perfectly. Still learning the game as a whole, it is a chance for him to show the NRL world just how talented he is.
South Sydney Rabbitohs: 1. Nathan Merritt 2. Beau Champion 3. Alex Johnston 4. Joel Reddy 5. Dylan Walker 6. Luke Keary 7. Apisai Koroisau 8. Dave Tyrrell 9. Irae Simone 10. Ben Lowe 11. Chris McQueen 12. Ben Te’o (C) 13. John Sutton 14. Cameron McInnes 15. Kyle Turner 16. Lote Tuqiri.
Ricky’s View: Whilst Souths have named some experience in their side, overall, it does not appear to be a threatening side across the park. Results may dictate otherwise but on paper, it is safe to presume that Souths have named one of the weaker sides. Nevertheless, the play of Luke Keary and John Sutton will be one to watch, given their creative nature in the middle of the park and around the ruck.
Whether he gets solid game-time remains to be seen, but young Souths hooker Cam McInnes – highly rated by those at the club – gets a chance to show what he can do. A speedy, talented hooker, McInnes has enjoyed several successful seasons at the NYC level for Souths and has shown his attacking flair, crafty creativity and solid dummy-half running in the past. If given a chance, he may well excel.
St George Illawarra Dragons: Josh Dugan, Brett Morris (C), Dylan Farrell, Nathan Green, Jason Nightingale, Adam Quinlan, Sam Williams, Jack De Belin, Mitch Rein, Tyson Frizell, Leeson Ah Mau, Joel Thompson, Trent Merrin, Bronson Harrison, Michael Witt and Craig Garvey.
Ricky’s View: The first thing you say when you look at this side, is wow! Easily one of the best side’s named, it is clear that the Dragons mean business from the outset. A powerhouse backline with the likes of Dugan, Morris, Farrell and Nightingale, coupled with a forward pack of Thompson, Merrin and Frizell, the Dragons are easily one of the favourites for the competition and justifiably so.
With several of their new recruits playing, it is a chance to cement first-grade spots and with a few up for grabs, the battle to gain them will be tense. If you are a betting man, the Dragons would be tempting to splash a bit of money on for the tournament.
As for the player to watch, that is none other than Craig Garvey. The only thing standing in his way from regular first-grade is Mitch Rein, but Garvey takes that in his stride and has always let his play do the talking. He has tasted first-grade and no doubt wants to play more of it and with some solid performances here and in the next Dragons trial should he be named, he may just get his wish and earn himself a bench spot.
Sydney Roosters: Mitch Pearce (C), Jake Friend (C), Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Aidan Guerra, Kane Evans, Daniel Tupou, Samisoni Langi, Jackson Hastings, Dylan Napa, Issac Liu, Nene MacDonald, Jonathan Reuben, Paul Rokolati, Rhyse Martin, Saulala Houma, Sio Siua Taukeiaho and Brad Fittler.
Ricky’s View: Again, not the strongest side named by the Roosters but despite that, the major talking point out of their camp has been the return of Brad Fittler to rugby league. Making his intentions clear about playing in the tournament, the former rugby league player will have his work cut out, given the expected fast paced nature of the tournament. A lot hinges on the likes of Pearce & Friend, who are the most experience players in the group. If they perform, the Roosters can spring some upsets. Otherwise, it will be a long tournament for them.
The player to watch is young Sio Siua Taukeiaho. One of the best young utilities in the NYC competition during his days at the Warriors, he can just about play anywhere on the park and with an opportunity to impress at his new club, it is one that he will be keen to take. Powerful, robust and possessing a ripper offload that can lead to opportunities, the Roosters’ quick men will want to be as close to him as possible all game.
New Zealand Warriors: Jayson Bukuya, Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Glen Fisiiahi, David Fusitua, Charlie Gubb, Konrad Hurrell, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Shaun Johnson, Solomone Kata, Ngani Laumape, Tuimoala Lolohea, Sam Lousi, Suaia Matagi, Dominique Peyroux, Sam Tomkins and Carlos Tuimavave.
Ricky’s View: The home team are ecstatic to have the chance to host the tournament and they have named a team to boot, with a tremendous line-up of new recruits, fan favourites and young players. The sheer size and power of their team are what makes them a favourite, with the likes of Suaia Matagi, Konrad Hurrell and Raymond Faitala-Mariner all big boppers who will be keen to make inroads. Shaun Johnson is a player perfectly suited to this format – like many others – and at home in New Zealand, he will be out to impress.
The player to watch is once again a no-brainer. Tuimoala Lolohea. One of the most consistent halves in 2013 during the NYC season, Lolohea set up tries for fun and at will. He runs the ball with speed and is an elusive player, and has no problems in exploiting gaps and weaknesses in an opposition defence. Another player suited for this competition.
Wests Tigers: 1. James Tedesco 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Pat Richards 4. Bodene Thompson 5. Marika Koroibete 6. Mitch Moses 7. Blake Austin 8. Aaron Woods 9. Ben Murdoch-Masila 10. Martin Taupau 11. Cory Paterson 12. Curtis Sironen 13. Adam Blair.
Ricky’s View: The loss of Robbie Farah due to injury might hurt the Tigers, but they still have a decent side overall for the competition. A lot now hinges on the experience of Pat Richards, Aaron Woods and Adam Blair, with most of the remaining players still quite young in terms of both age and NRL experience. There is some talent in the Tigers side, however, and they will look to use the likes of Curtis Sironen and Cory Paterson on the fringes to create opportunity.
As for the player to watch, that would be one Blake Austin. Likely to play in the halves in not only this tournament but also in first-grade, Austin has shown not only how versatile he can be but how good he can be at any position he plays. For the Windsor Wolves last year, playing halfback came almost naturally to him and he was involved in many attacking raids and tries the team scored. With potency like that and a young half in Mitch Moses to be alongside him, Austin will be the main focal point of the Tigers attack and will steer the ship. Based on how he has played in the past, you would expect him to handle it well.