OTLS Auckland Nines Preview – Pool Rangitoto

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Updated: January 30, 2017

The Auckland Nines is back once again for it’s fourth instalment. An exciting weekend of rugby league that is jammed full of highlights that even the most casual viewer would enjoy. OTLS is previewing each and every team and their chances of taking the trophy home.

 

Brisbane Broncos

Squad: Lachlan Barr, Adam Blair, Darius Boyd, Gerome Burns, Mitch Cronin, Matt Gillett, Jordan Kahu, Sam Lavea, Matiu Love-Henry, Benji Marshall, Andrew McCullough, Anthony Milford, Francis Molo, Corey Oates, Jonus Pearson, James Roberts, Gehamat Shibasaki, Jaydn Su’A.

Pool Prediction: 1st

The Broncos have named a strong team in what is one of the weaker pools and should dominate as such. It’s hard to see any of their opponents getting close to them and they’ll finish on top of their pool as they easily advance to the quarter finals.   

Key Player: Anthony Milford

Milford will be one of the stars of the tournament.

Milfords game style is perfectly suited to the Nines. With talented forwards drawing in defenders and some lethal outside backs at his disposal, Milford will make easy work of creating scoring opportunities for Brisbane. With Ben Hunt off to the Dragons next year, it’s the time for Milford to become the Broncos no.1 man.

Breakout Player: Gehamat Shibasaki

The nineteen year old represented both the U18’s and the U20’s Queensland side in the centres last year and could find himself in the back line for Brisbane over the Origin period with a few good performances, starting here with the Nines.

Tournament Prediction: Champions

The Broncos have one of the strongest squads being sent over to Auckland. With a team that is complete across the park, there is no real obvious weakness for the opposition to exploit. Set to come up against teams in the stronger bracket of the knockout stage, we’re still backing the Broncos to go all the way and collect their first Auckland Nines trophy after falling just short in the final of the inaugural competition.


Melbourne Storm

Squad: Kenny Bromwich (c), Young Tonumaipea (c), Josh Addo-Carr, Curtis Scott, Cheyse Blair, Linc Port, Cameron Munster, Brodie Croft, Mark Nicholls, Slade Griffin, Tim Glasby, Joe Stimson, Felise Kaufusi, Scott Drinkwater, Ryley Jacks, Jake Turpin, Dean Britt, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Charlie Galo (19th man)

Pool Prediction: 3rd

The Storm will be unlucky not to advance to the knockout stages, evenly matched with the Tigers, we think the Tigers outside speed will be what gets them through and unfortunately for the Storm, meaning they’re going home a few hours earlier. A sole victory looms against the Knights while a strong Broncos outfit will be a bit much for them.

Key Player: Cameron Munster

The Nines will be Munster’s first test as a play maker.

An exciting talent at fullback, Munster has been tasked to shift into the halves for Melbourne in 2017 and this will be his first competitive foray into leading the Storm around the park. His speed and vision will be pivotal to the Storms attack and if the Storm are to win a couple of games over the weekend, he’ll be just the man to get them over the line.

Breakout Player: Scott Drinkwater

The brother of former Dragon and Tiger Josh Drinkwater, Scott has been tipped to be the man to eventually replace Cooper Cronk at the Storm once he retires. Representing the Australian Schoolboys in 2015, Drinkwater isn’t short on talent and with halves spot up for grabs during the origin period, he’ll be keen to show his worth here.

Tournament Prediction: Group Stages

The Melbourne Storm have named a young group, as they have done in recent seasons opting to leave many of their stars back home. Considered a smart move with a lot of their top end talent stretched out thin with representative duties, it’s an event they can afford to miss. That mind set however is never going to translate to Nines success and until the Storm bring some star power to Auckland they’ll struggle to ever get past the semi final stage.   


Newcastle Knights

Squad: Jamie Buhrer (c), Peter Mata’utia, Ken Sio, Brendan Elliot, Nathan Ross, Cory Denniss, Brock Lamb, Jaelen Feeney, Daniel Saifiti, Danny Levi, Jacob Saifiti, Mitch Barnett, Luke Yates, Tyler Randell, Jack Stockwell, Sam Stone, Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Nick Meaney, Sione Mata’utia (19th man)

Pool Prediction: 4th

Despite their poor form in the regular season over recent years, Newcastle have made it to the quarter final in each and every Nines tournament so far, however with this squad we don’t see that streak continuing on this year. The Rangitoto pool is one of the weaker pools and despite this, the Knights are still most likely to be going home winless.

Key Player: Nathan Ross

One of the few shining lights of the Knights 2016 season, Ross lead the try scoring for Newcastle and should do so again this season. The most potent attacking weapon the Knights are taking to Auckland, Ross will have a big task ahead of him if the Knights are any chance to win a game let alone the tournament.

Breakout Player: Cory Denniss

We’re calling it now, Denniss will be a star of the future.

Denniss played seven games on the wing for the Knights last season, crossing over for a try three times including a double on debut. Also playing for NSW in the U20’s team, Denniss is strong in defence making him a solid two way player and will be one to watch for the Knights both at the Nines and the NRL for years to come.

Tournament Prediction: Group Stage

Unfortunately for Newcastle fans, the reality of another poor season will hit them earlier than expected. This weekend much like the regular season, will be much more about finding further talent to take them forward in the future than success in the win-loss column.


Wests Tigers

Squad: Josh Aloiai, Luke Brooks, Michael Chee Kam, Joel Edwards, Matt Eisenhuth, JJ Felise, Watson Heleta, Justin Hunt, Jack Littlejohn, Kyle Lovett, Esan Marsters, Matt McIlwrick, Kevin Naiqama, Jordan Rankin, Ava Seumanufagai, Bayley Sironen, Sauso Sue, Elijah Taylor (c)

Pool Prediction: 2nd

The Tigers will be locked into a battle for second with the Storm, the outcome of their game will most likely determine who will move on to the knockout stages. With similar squads, we’re backing the Tigers outside backs to be more potent than the Storms. They should get a comfortable win over the Knights and could beat Brisbane if things go their way.  

Key Player: Luke Brooks

Tiger fans will enjoy seeing Brooks on his Nines debut.

On his Nines debut, Brooks will be keen to continue on his good form from last year and without Moses in Auckland will be in charge of the Tigers attack. Ranked 7th in line break assists in 2016, Brooks will relish the open spaces of the Nines.  

Breakout Player: JJ Felise

Felise has played eight NRL games already but will be keen to make a name for himself and cement his spot in the side come round one. A versatile forward, standing at 185 cm and weighing 111 kg, Felise regularly uses his size to break tackles and defensive lines in the 13 a side format and will love the extra time and space afforded to him in the Nines.

Tournament Prediction: Quarter Finals

The Tigers run will be short lived, facing either a strong Souths or Cowboys line-up in the quarter finals. Wests have good players in each of their forward, half and back positions capable of coming up with game winning plays but still lack the quality and depth of the serious contending sides. No doubt leaving Tedesco and Woods back in Sydney is the smart play for the NRL season, particularly given Tedesco’s injury history but it’ll leave them just short of what’s required at the Nines.  

 

Written By Mitchell McGuinness

 

Image Sources:

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