Squads: Storm, Panthers, Rabbitohs and Dragons
Will Chambers, Sisa Waqa, Joel Romelo, Mahe Fonua, Matt Duffie, Young Tonumaipea, Mitch Garbutt, Justin O’Neill, Tohu Harris, Matthew Lodge, Kevin Proctor, Ryan Hoffman, Slade Griffin, Kurt Mann, Cameron Munster, Richie Kennar, Jesse Bromwich (17th man)
Matt Moylan, Wes Naiqama, Josh Mansour, Isaac John, Kevin Naiqama, Jamie Soward, Jeremy Latimore, Sam McKendry, Kevin Kingston, Tyrone Peachey, Lewis Brown, Adam Docker, Regan Campbell-Gillard, Eto Nabuli, George Jennings, Issah Yeo
Josh Dugan, Brett Morris, 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, Craig Garvey
Nathan Merritt, Beau Champion, Alex Johnston, Joel Reddy, Dylan Walker, Luke Keary, Apisai Koroisau, Dave Tyrrell, Irae Simone, Ben Lowe, Chris McQueen, Ben Te’o, John Sutton, Cameron McInnes, Kyle Turner, Lote Tuqiri
Melbourne travel to Auckland with a squad missing Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater. The most likely player to benefit from the format from this side will be Sisa Waqa. Waqa is hard to stop in open spaces and has good strength to break the defence. Mahe Fonua showed late last year with four tries against the Raiders he can get to the line. The Storm don’t have any notable player in the squad and this will make their chances of advancing very difficult.
Penrith have selected former Dragons playmaker Jamie Soward as part of their squad. He is joined by Tyrone Peachey and Kevin Naiqama as players making their Panther debut at the tournament. The one player to watch at this tournament is Eto Nabuli. Nabuli’s first season of rugby league saw the Fijian flyer score thirty tries in twenty-six NSW Cup appearances. Also keep an eye on George Jennings who’s destined to play NRL level at some stage following in the footsteps of brother Michael. For more on the Panthers chances, read my preview here.
The Dragons have a good squad too with some genuine pace and playmaking. Josh Dugan can easily fill the fullback role in defence whilst playing at five-eighth in attack. Brett Morris, Jason Nightingale and Dylan Farrell are their best chances of putting on the points. I also like the selection of Adam Quinlan who last year broke through at NRL level and represents the future of the club. The key will be Sam Williams looking for more chances of top level footy with his new club after being successful at Raiders Under 20’s level. Michael Witt is the wise head in the team with his return down under after a stint in England.
South Sydney will be competitive with Nathan Merritt leading a good backline. Chris McQueen’s role in this Nines tournament will be pivotal to the Rabbitoh’s chances with the ability to play both in the forwards and as a back. Beau Champion returns to the club and along with Joel Reddy and Dylan Walker represent the potential try scorers. Putting points on the board won’t be a problem. John Sutton will also be suited to this level with handy ball skills and strength.
This group seems to be a three-way race with South Sydney, Penrith and St George-Illawarra to battle it out for a place in the quarter-finals.