Here’s a look at the Waiheke group for the upcoming Auckland Nines tournament at Eden Park.
Cronulla Sharks, Gold Coast Titans, Penrith Panthers, Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs.
Cronulla Sharks: Wade Graham (c), Luke Lewis, Matt Prior, Chris Heighington, Gerard Beale, Kurt Capewell, Joseph Paulo, Jack Bird, Ricky Leutele, Manaia Cherrington, Jesse Ramien, Will Kennedy, Jayden Walker, Kyle Flanagan, Sione Katoa, Billy Magoulias, Malakai Houma, Kurt Kara
The Sharks have plenty of players from their premiership winning squad and are looking to emulate the Rabbitohs in 2015 who won an Auckland Nines after securing a long awaited premiership the previous year. Manaia Cherrington gets a great chance to fill the huge void left by Michael Ennis’ departure. Youngster William Kennedy could be a player to watch and perhaps a chance for the fullback role with a big Nines tournament. The Auckland tournament provides a welcome distraction from the Ben Barba saga.
Gold Coast Titans: Morgan Boyle, Alexander Brimson, Tyler Cornish, Anthony Don, Kane Elgey, Jarryd Hayne, Ryan James, Max King, Chris McQueen, John Olive, Nathaniel Peteru, Pat Politoni, Leivaha Pulu, Tyrone Roberts, Tyronne Roberts-Davis, Hayden Schwass, Paterika Vaivai, Daniel Vidot, William Zillman
The Titans big recruit from 2016 – Jarryd Hayne – headlines a strong squad from the glitter strip. There’s a good mix of quality NRL experience like Ryan James, Chris McQueen and Anthony Don alongside some young hopefuls and players from the 2016 Intrust Super Cup Premiership winning Burleigh Bears. Also included are some on the comeback trail like William Zillman and Kane Elgey from injuries in 2016, and Daniel Vidot from a short stint in the English Super League. Big chance to win the entire Auckland Nines.
Penrith Panthers: Dylan Edwards, Corey Waddell, Waqa Blake, Jed Cartwright, Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, Nathan Cleary, Kaide Ellis, Sione Katoa, Darren Nicholls, Tyrone May, Moses Leota, Sitaleki Akauola, James Tamou, Christian Crichton, Corey Harawira-Naera, Isaah Yeo (c), Zach Dockar-Clay, Oliver Clark
Penrith are much fancied for the NRL title in 2017, but have named a largely unknown squad to league followers outside the Penrith loop. One big name included is new recruit James Tamou who will no doubt be looking to start his new life at the foot of the mountains in good style. There’s a few surnames that some will know, but they are not the front line NRL players. Jed Cartwright, cousin of Bryce, and Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, brother of Dallin, get their chance to shine away from their more highly known relations. Darren Nicholls who was one of the Intrust Super Cup’s best players in 2016 for Redcliffe will get probably his only chance at a top level Penrith jersey this season. Phil Gould recently said he wasn’t a fan of Nines on Twitter, and not without cause with the injury toll from previous tournaments, and it shows with this squad.
Canterbury Bulldogs: Brad Abbey, Tom Carr, Matt Frawley, Danny Fualalo, Craig Garvey, Kerrod Holland, Sam Kasiano, David Klemmer, Lachlan Lewis, Michael Lichaa, Rhyse Martin, D’Rhys Miller, Marcelo Montoya, Tyrone Phillips, Josh Reynolds (c), Reimis Smith, Renouf To’omaga, Francis Tualau
Coach Des Hasler just survived a potential booting at the end of last season despite making finals, so the pressure will be on to not only win something but improve the quality of football. There’s no better place to start than in Auckland. Big names and big men have been selected in Sam Kasiano and David Klemmer with Josh Reynolds skippering the side. Rhyse Martin will be one to watch. The PNG International was recruited from Townsville Blackhawks for 2017, and he will hopefully get a decent crack unlike so many ISC recruits of recent seasons.
Who Will Advance?
Gold Coast and Sharks.
The Titans look the good for the final four if not the overall title, so should make easy work of this group. The second berth looks reasonably tight, but the Sharks have the best mix of experience and potential point scoring of the remaining three.