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Cronulla Sharks

Auckland 9’s – Blue Group

Heading in to an inaugural tournament, it is always hard to know what combinations will be effective. The Blue group seems to indicate that fast pace in feet and ball movement are what the Knights, Sharks, Titans and  Tigers believe will be the key to taking home the large share of prize money.

NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS

Jarrod Mullen (c), Chanel Mata’utia, Jake Mamo, Dane Gagai, Joseph Leilua, Akuila Uate, Tyrone Roberts, Willie Mason, Adam Clydsdale, Chris Houston, Beau Scott, Robbie Rochow, Jeremy Smith, Michael Dobson, Alex McKinnon, Zane Tetevano

A relatively young squad with some experienced heads to lead the team around, the Knights squad will look to utilise quick play the balls up the middle through dynamic forwards such as Jeremy Smith and Robbie Rochow.

Jarrod Mullen holds the key, with his linking between the forwards and backs through both his long passing game and kicking prowess the key tool to getting the knights the momentum and space required to outscore the opposition.

If he can link fast play the balls in the middle parts of the field, with the speed of Gagai and Uate on the edges, teams will have a hard time keeping the Knights out.

CRONULLA SHARKS

Nathan Gardner, Nathan Stapleton, Blake Ayshford, Jonathan Wright, Sosaia Feki, Todd Carney, Daniel Holdsworth, Vitale (Junior) Roqica, Michael Lichaa, Sam Tagataese, Wade Graham, Matt Prior, Paul Gallen, Ricky Leutele, Tupou Sopoaga, Fa’amanu Brown

The Sharks have chosen a fairly experienced squad for the Auckland tournament, while testing some of their young up and coming players such as the favourite of many Sharks fans, Michael Lichaa.

The Sharks chances have been talked up by many, mostly on the back of a powerful and effective front line. While the team lacks the pace of some of its rivals, the movement skills of players such as Wade Graham gives the Sharks a definitive advantage.  With the roll on this movement in the forwards allows, the backline will find themselves with room, and Gardener in space is always a slippery customer.

WESTS TIGERS

James Tedesco, David Nofoaluma, Pat Richards, Bodene Thompson, Marika Koroibete, Mitchell Moses, Blake Austin, Aaron Woods, Robbie Farah (c), Martin Taupau, Cory Paterson, Curtis Sironen, Adam Blair, Manaia Cherrington, Kurtis Rowe, James Gavet

Adam Blair must fire the tigers to succeed in the nines. The Tigers bought the ball moving forward from the Storm a couple of years ago now, and he has not displayed the skills to justify his price tag.

His performances from his days in purple however show he is capable. He will have to lead his forward pack around, and muscle up in defence to help ease the work load on Robbie Farah.

While the games are only nine minute halves, match fitness is always testing and when a team relies heavily on their hooker, this can lead to issues early. Farah shouldered a lot of the work for the Wests side last year in both attack and defense, and his team mates need to help out more, or their attack will become too one dimensional.

The Tigers will look to utilise the speed and athleticism of youngsters Noafoaluma and Koroibete to get themselves over the tryline.

GOLD COAST TITANS

William Zillman, Brad Tighe, David Mead, Kevin Gordon, Albert Kelly, Greg Bird, Ashley Harrison, Anthony Don, Paul Carter, Kalifa Faifai Loa, Brad Takairangi, Mark Minichiello, Maurice Blair, Luke Bailey, Siuatonga Likiliki, David Taylor.

The Titans are a darkhorse of the competition, with a very exciting back line. Albert Kelly was made for space, and with just nine players taking the field, he will find himself with plenty of it.

The speed of the Titans outside mean put them on the fringe of the eight, and their attacking flair makes them a danger to the opposition in the Nines competition.

Where the Titans will struggle is working it out of their own end through the forwards, and defending the middle third of the field. Players such as Mark Minichello, Luke Bailey and Ashley Harrison have all had wonderful careers, but as they age, may find themselves struggling to keep up with the speed of this tournament, particularly while lacking match fitness.

This will mean much of the burden will be left to the backline, and if they are forced to defend, their attack may be blunted somewhat.  Expect Greg Bird to do a mountain of work.

However, it won’t take much space for the Gold Coast side to find the line.

BLUE GROUP SUMMARY

Across the park, the Sharks and Knights have the stronger squads and would be favourites to continue through to the finals part of the competition. With such a new concept though it is always hard to call.

Sam Dasey studied a Bachelor of Sports Media at UC, graduating at the end of 2013. He has undertaken internships with Canberra Times and Touch Football Australia, as well as a local radio station in Canberra.

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