Four less players will mean wide open spaces come this weekend’s Auckland Nines tournament, but it also poses a number of selection and strategy headaches for all 16 coaches. The big question is; what makes the perfect Nines player and team?
For Rabbitohs Nines representative Chris McQueen, the question is as intriguing as it is important to the success of this weekend’s campaign. Is it a case of big men only? Is it a mixture of big and agile? Or, is it a case of small and zippy?
McQueen though, could be one of the fortunate ones come Saturday when it comes to those stakes. Having entered the top grade as a hard running winger, McQueen has since found a home in the Rabbitohs’ back-row where he has gone on to grab a Maroon State of Origin jersey – giving him important experience in both styles of play.
“I’m hoping that that’ll be an advantage,” said McQueen of his positional versatility.
“Obviously I used to be a winger so I think I still carry a bit of that speed that I used to have, but now having also played in the forwards, my defence is a lot better and I’ve worked a lot on my size as well. I think that will go a long way in this tournament.”
Rabbitohs Coach Michael Maguire named an eclectic Rabbitohs side comprising a balance of both big and small men with agility this week, but the verdict on the right make-up of a Nines side will be out until after the tournament is over.
To see the Rabbitohs’ line-up for this weekend’s Auckland Nines, please click here.
“I don’t think anyone really knows what the formula is,” said McQueen.
“It’s obviously the first time this has happened. We’re taking a mixture of both forwards and backs so we can really try and get a feel for the best strategy.
“It’s going to be pretty different and I’m sure it will tend to suit the faster guys from every team, but I guess we’re going to have to wait until we get there to gauge how it will be.”
Despite the element of the unknown however, McQueen is far from concerned given that each of the 16 NRL teams involved are facing exactly the same conundrum.
“Just like us, I’m sure they’re going to be a bit unsure about the right make-up of their teams, and as for the game-plan – it’s sort of hard to guess what that might be or what that will throw at us.
“We’ll just have to wait and see what they throw at us, just like they’ll have to wait and see what we’re going to throw against them.
“But for me, it’s definitely exciting to be a part of the Rabbitohs’ first Nines tournament squad.”
The Rabbitohs will face the Melbourne Storm, St George Illawarra Dragons and Penrith Panthers in the group stage of the Auckland Nines tournament. The tournament will be broadcast live on Fox Sports.