The NRL Auckland Nines is just around the corner, and it’s hard not to feel excited about the upcoming tournament.
Now in its third year, the Nines have quickly become a fixture that every rugby league fan pencils into their schedule.
One man who’s familiar with the hype and excitement of the Nines is Captain Mitchell Pearce, who has played in the previous two tournaments.
“It’s really enjoyable,” he said about the Nines.
“The style is a bit more free-flowing, but you’re still playing for a trophy.
“It’s fun though, there’s a bit less pressure and I’ve really enjoyed it.”
The biggest appeal about the Nines is that there is much more space, as opposed to the thirteen- man game.
When asked about the structure of the nine-man game, Pearce’s experience in the tournament spoke loud.
“It’s different, and to be honest in the first year nobody knew how to play it,” he said.
“Last year we had some games go well and others not so much, but I think the teams that went well played tough through the middle.
“People are always thinking about the space out wide, but in my opinion the ruck is where the game is won.”
The selection process is never predictable, but Pearce knows who he’d like to see on the field.
“I think Jayden Nikorima would go really well with his speed and footwork, and Jackson Hastings would be great as well after playing last year.
“Mobile forwards would thrive, guys like Sio Siua Taukeiaho and Mitchell Aubusson are the type of guys you want running out there.”
The differences in competitions ask one key question –Does the Nines prepare teams for the upcoming season?
Pearce sees the benefits, in more ways than one.
“I think you can absolutely get benefit out of it.
“It’s the first chance you get to see other teams in the pre-season, so when you’re there you get to see how fit they are, how prepared they are and get an idea on how sharp they’re going to be.
“It’s a different game, but you still get to see what condition they (NRL teams) are in.”
It remains a mystery whether or not Pearce will be selected in the Nines squad, but there is no doubt that whether he is on the field or not, he will be offering plenty of advice to his teammates.