Auckland 9’s preview
-with Ben Jenkins
The NRL are looking to start 2015 with a bang as they prepare for the opening of the second consecutive year of the Dick Smith Auckland Nines Tournament. After an extremely popular tournament at the beginning of 2014 – which saw the North Queensland Cowboys walk away with the Silverware and more than $2 million in their back pocket – the NRL are hoping to build on the new form of Rugby League after almost 90,000 people travelled to Eden Park to support the two day event in 2014.
Critics have called the Coaches’ support of the Nines into question as Wayne Bennett, Craig Bellamy and Geoff Toovey have all publicly voiced their reluctance to allow their international stars to compete. Though despite the busy NRL schedule, The Warriors, Cowboys, Rabbitohs and Eels – who are the Semi-Finalist frontrunners – have all named a bounty of international stars including the likes of Shaun Johnson, Issac Luke, George Burgess and Dylan Walker.
Having named a strong squad in preparation for the 31-Game even, 2014 Semi-Finalists the Warriors look to be eying the trophy and the wealth of young talent in their side combined with the star power of Johnson, Hoffman, Vatuvei and Tomkins means the Warriors are easy favourites.
In what seems like a bad omen for the Cowboys’ hopes, centre Kane Linnett and fullback Lachlan Coote have pulled out of the tournament due to a drink driving charge and lost passport respectively. While Dally-M medallist Johnathan Thurston is being rested, the Cowboys have named a very competitive squad with the likes of Jason Taumalolo, Michael Morgan and Gavin Cooper making the side.
2014 Quarter Finalists the Parramatta Eels have named an exciting squad. Brad Arthur is hoping for a good showing as the Eels look to put their inconsistent 2014 campaign behind them, and with the speed of Chris Sandow, John Folau and Will Hopoate combined with the raw power of Manu Ma’u and Pauli Pauli, the Eels look set to give the tournament a shake.
Last amongst the likely finalists are the 2014 Premiers the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Led by Isaac Luke, the Rabbitohs have a plethora of talent spearheaded by recent international debutants Dylan Walker and George Burgess. In addition, in demand Half-back Adam Reynolds and Origin star Chris McQueen will also make an appearance for the Green and Red.
With these teams likely to battle it out for the trophy, the 2015 NRL Auckland Nines is shaping to be an even bigger spectacle than the last.
Mike Wilson’s tips:
Always a tough tournament to bet on with so many unknowns.
For a bit of fun, I’m betting equal amounts on the Knights at 11.00 (Centrebet), Sharks at 15.00 (Luxbet) and Eels at 15.00 (Luxbet) who to the naked eye appear to have an eclectic mix of of talent required for such a tournament.