With all of the teams now named for the Downer NRL Auckland Nines this weekend, it’s hard to not feel excited about the fact that the rugby league season is well and truly upon us.
Head Coach Trent Robinson named his side earlier this week, and there’s plenty to love about it.
It boasts some exciting young talent, some familiar faces and even a returning face, with Braith Anasta set to make his red, white and blue return.
After finishing last year’s tournament in the semi-finals, the Roosters will be keen to put in a strong showing in the nine-man game.
Before the thought of finals can even be pondered though, there is a tough battle ahead in the Waiheke Pool.
The Roosters will be toughing it out against three strong squads in the tournament, with the Parramatta Eels, South Sydney Rabbitohs and Melbourne Storm all naming competitive teams.
South Sydney Rabbitohs:
1.Alex Johnston, 2.Michael Oldfield, 3.Bryson Goodwin, 4.Ed Murphy, 5.Cameron Mcinnes, 6.Cody Walker, 7.Damien Cook, 8.John Sutton,9.Thomas Burgess, 10.Kyle Turner, 11.Jason Clark, 12.Paul Carter, 13.Chris Grevsmuhl, 14.John Olive, 15.Kirisome Auvaá, 16.Hymel Hunt, 17.Jack Gosiewski, 18.Zane Musgrove
The Rabbitohs were crowned champions in last year’s tournament, carrying on from a Premiership-winning 2014 season.
They travelled with a strong side that boasted plenty of size and natural ball-players.
This year, the Rabbitohs will once again send a competitive side to Auckland, and will no doubt be one of the teams to beat.
From the speed of guys like Alex Johnston, Bryson Goodwin and former Rooster Michael Oldfield, to the strength of guys like Thomas Burgess and Chris Grevsmuhl, this is going to be a tough battle as the opening match of the tournament.
1.Corey Norman (c), 2.Semi Radradra, 3.Vai Toutai, 4.John Folau, 5.Bureta Faraimo, 6.Luke Kelly, 7. Mitch Cornish, 8.Junior Paulo, 9.Cameron King, 10.Peni Terepo, 11.Manu Ma'u, 12.David Gower, 13.Tepai Moeroa, 14.Bevan French, 15.Matt Woods, 16.Ryan Morgan, 17.Kelepi Tanginoa, 18.Cody Nelson.
The Eels are a fast paced team and the side they’re taking to Auckland will only highlight that.
Semi Radradra was the leading try-scorer in the 2015 season and will return to the Nines again in 2016, after proving himself as a natural in the nine-man format.
With John Folau and Corey Norman also named in their back-line, there is ball movement and speed to boast here.
Their forwards are mobile and strong, with Manu Ma’u, Peni Terepo, Junior Paulo and Tepai Moeroa all set to line-up.
The Roosters will need to bring their A-game in this one as a tough match awaits.
1.Curtis Scott, 2.Young Tonumaipea, 3.Richie Kennar, 4.Cameron Munster, 5.Marika Koriobete, 6.Blake Green (c), 7.Brodie Croft, 8.Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 9.Ben Hampton, 10.Mark Nicholls, 11.Kenny Bromwich, 12.Tohu Harris, 13.Dale Funicane, 14.Nafe Seluini, 15.Jeremy Hawkins, 16.Dean Britt, 17.Joe Stimson, 18.Tony Tumusa.
Though none of the obvious “Big Three” will be in attendance this weekend, the Storm Nines side still boasts a heap of talent.
From speedsters like Marika Koriobete, to the x-factor of guys like Tohu Harris, this clash will be anything but an easy victory.
The side will be captained by Blake Green, who is coming off an outstanding 2015 season and is definitely the one to look out for.
The Roosters will need to shut down the play-making ability of Green or pay the price.
The NRL Auckland Nines is now in its third year, and teams are starting to get the hang of the concept.
The Roosters were knocked out before the finals in 2014, but managed to make it to the semi-finals of last year’s tournament.
The side has changed, but the amount of young and exciting talent in this side should make any Roosters fans itching to see them take to the field at Eden Park.
There is experience with the returning Captain Braith Anasta, speed and power in the backline and mobility in the young forwards.
There is no reason that this team can’t go far in this year’s tournament.
1.Latrell Mitchell, 2.Daniel Tupou, 3.Brendan Elliot, 4.Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 5.Joe Burgess, 6.Braith Anasta (c), 7.Tyler Cornish, 8.Isaac Liu, 9.Ian Henderson, 10.Abraham Papalii, 11.Vincent Leuluai, 12.Eloni Vunakece, 13.Nat Butcher, 14.Connor Watson, 15.Joseph Manu, 16.Nathan Smith, 17.Joey Lussick, 18.Omar Slaimankhel