2015 Dick Smith Auckland Nines
Rabbitohs v Panthers, Cowboys & Storm
31st January – 1st February, Eden Park, Auckland
The South Sydney Rabbitohs come into their second ever Auckland Nines Tournament with a team capable of causing plenty of damage.
Michael Maguire’s 18 man outfit to take on the Penrith Panthers, the North Queensland Cowboys and Melbourne Storm – during the tournament’s pool stage – is one brimming with representative quality talent and enthusiastic youth.
With the likes of internationals such as Dylan Walker, George Burgess, Bryson Goodwin and Issac Luke named, coupled with Queensland’s Chris McQueen and promising young-guns such as Cameron McInnes and Aaron Gray, there’s little doubt that Maguire intends to make an impression.
Throw in former Origin and Test outside back, 34 year old Matt King, and the Rabbitohs possess a balanced outfit that is sure to produce some memorable moments in this tournament.
King is the latest in a short but impressive list of former greats making returns in the Nines – Brad Fittler and Steve Menzies the most notable in 2014, while this year’s tournament will see the return of Canberra legend Ken Nagus at the age of 41.
“Those guys had a lot of fun,” said King of the return of last year’s greats.
“I don’t think they placed too much pressure on themselves which I think is the key. From my perspective it’s about having a bit of fun and trying to help the boys play as well as they can.
“I don’t want to place too much pressure on myself – Freddie (Brad Fittler) took that mad intercept and Beaver (Steve Menzies) has fun whatever he does. So I think I’ll try and take that approach; have a bit of fun with the boys, but we’re over there to do a job so hopefully we get a few wins.”
Wins won’t come easily in the Rabbitohs’ Waiheke pool either, with the side set to take on a mobile Panthers outfit, a well-drilled Storm, and defending Nines Champions the Cowboys – all of whom will be keen to get their 2015 campaigns started on a winning foot.
The Rabbitohs will be led by Kiwi hooker, Issac Luke, who relished the chance to be a part of this year’s tournament.
“I’ll be able to do it in front of my family back home – it’s going to be a huge honour and something I’ve been looking forward to for a while,” said Luke.
“Last year I got to witness it and this year I get to be a part of it. Last year it was massive and apparently this year it’s going to be bigger, so I’m looking forward to it. It’s awesome to play at home.”
Last Time at the Nines
With the 2015 Auckland Nines Tournament just days away, we look at the Rabbitohs’ first foray into the reduced format of the game in the 2014 tournament.
The Rabbitohs finished the first ever Auckland Nines Tournament with a Quarter Finals berth, after showing plenty of promise, speed, agility and creativity in the pool stages.
In four matches, the men in red and green came away with two wins and two losses, eventually bowing out against a red-hot home-side in the form of the New Zealand Warriors.
On day one of the Tournament, the Rabbitohs began their campaign with an impressive win over the St George Illawarra Dragons by 23-4 in a match that showed a wide variety of the Rabbitohs’ arsenal. But it wasn’t all fair sailing, with the side going down to the Storm by 18-12 in their second match of the day.
There was however enough in the two performances to be proud of. In total, John Sutton set up three tries with the boot, while Dylan Walker and Luke Keary showed plenty of promise with both players proving to be among the most dangerous in the competition with their speed and aggressive attack.
On day two, playing against a Panthers side that would eventually go on to take the Pool on for and against, the Rabbitohs defeated the gritty Penrith outfit, 18-16 in Game 24 to book themselves a place in the finals.
But while the Rabbitohs came away with the win, it came at a high cost with Luke Keary suffering a pectoral injury that would ultimately rule him out for much of the 2014 season.
The side soldiered on though, setting up a showdown with tournament hosts and then-favourites, the New Zealand Warriors. The Warriors were as yet an undefeated outfit, and they proved just why during the course of match.
The men in red and green had a chance to square the match up with mere minutes left with a bonus-zone try. The side managed a regulation try outside the bonus-zone, ending the match and the Rabbitohs’ Nines campaign by just a single point at 17-16.
Waiheke Pool Team Lists
COWBOYS: Michael Morgan, Justin O’Neill, Tautau Moga, Kyle Feldt, Matthew Wright, Ray Thompson, Robert Lui, John Asiata, Rory Kostjasyn, Kelepi Tanginoa, Gavin Cooper (c), Ethan Lowe, Jason Taumalolo, Jake Granville, Zac Santo, Coen Hess, Javid Bowen, Ben Spina.
PANTHERS: Brendan Attwood, Christian Crichton, Joshua Jay, Isaac John, Apisai Koroisau, Kieran Moss, Andy Aunders, Nathan Smith, Tupou Sopoaga, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Adrian Davis, George Jennings, Kevin Kingston, Sika Manu, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Chris Smith, Will Smith, Isaah Yeo.
STORM: Young Tonumaipea, Kenny Bromwich, Will Chambers (c), Kurt Mann, Richie Kennar, Dayne Weston, Cameron Munster, Hymel Hunt, Tohu Harris, Marika Koroibete, Travis Robinson, Christian Welch, Ben Hampton, Billy Brittain, Francis Tualau, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Suliasi Vunivalu, Shaun Nona.
Rabbitohs to Watch
Issac Luke: If you thought Issac Luke was good in the 13 a side format of the game, imagine what’s possible with only nine on the field. Standing at just 174cm tall and 90kg, the Kiwi rake may not be the biggest player on the field, but is pound for pound one of the strongest players in the NRL. But that’s not why Issac could be on the cusp of making a mark on the Nines this year. His ability to split defences from dummy-half before going on to make massive yards is a key feature of the Rabbitohs’ game. Expect Luke to be stealing regular opportunities from the ruck and for speedy outside backs to be in support.
Matt King: Brad Fittler and Steve Menzies made successful Nines returns in 2014, so it stands to reason that former Origin and Test player, Matt King, could make an impact come the weekend. Having played just four games of bush football in the last year, King isn’t the hardened first grader that saw him win international selection, but what he does have is the experience required to mentor young Rabbitohs outside backs such as Aaron Gray and Setefano Taukafa –his year in the coaching ranks at the Club will only have helped him in that regard. Expect Kingy to be a real part of this Nines campaign. Brace yourself for the ‘Sideshow Bob’ hairstyle to make a return to the pitch!
Fox Sports 1 will be broadcasting the Nines this weekend with coverage beginning at 10am on Saturday and 9.30am on Sunday.
Teams: Knights, Dragons, Eels, Sea Eagles
Eels v Sea Eagles (Saturday, 10.30am AEDT)
Knights v Dragons (Saturday, 10.55am AEDT)
Eels v Knights (Saturday, 2.25pm AEDT)
Sea Eagles v Dragons (Saturday, 2.50pm AEDT)
Eels v Dragons (Sunday, 9.10am AEDT)
Sea Eagles v Knights (Sunday, 9.35am AEDT)
Teams: Panthers, Cowboys, Rabbitohs, Storm
Storm v Cowboys (Saturday, 11.20am AEDT)
Panthers v Rabbitohs (Saturday, 11.45am AEDT)
Storm v Panthers (Saturday, 3.15pm AEDT)
Cowboys v Rabbitohs (Saturday, 3.40pm AEDT)
Storm v Rabbitohs (Sunday, 10am AEDT)
Cowboys v Panthers (Sunday, 10.25am AEDT)
Teams: Raiders, Warriors, Tigers, Titans
Tigers v Raiders (Saturday, 12.20pm AEDT)
Titans v Warriors (Saturday, 12.45pm AEDT)
Tigers v Titans (Saturday, 4.15pm AEDT)
Raiders v Warriors (Saturday, 4.40pm AEDT)
Tigers v Warriors (Sunday, 10.50am AEDT)
Raiders v Titans (Sunday, 11.15pm AEDT)
Teams: Broncos, Bulldogs, Sharks, Roosters
Roosters v Broncos (Saturday, 1.15pm AEDT)
Bulldogs v Sharks (Saturday, 1.40pm AEDT)
Roosters v Bulldogs (Saturday, 5.05pm AEDT)
Broncos v Sharks (Saturday, 5.30pm AEDT)
Roosters v Sharks (Sunday, 11.40am AEDT)
Broncos v Bulldogs (Sunday, 12.05pm AEDT)
Game 1: NZ v Australia (Saturday, 2pm AEDT)
Game 2: NZ v Australia (Sunday, 2.35pm AEDT)
Game 3: NZ v Australia (Sunday, 4.40pm AEDT)
QF1: 1st Rangitoto v 2nd Waiheke (Sunday, 12.30pm AEDT)
QF2: 2nd Rangitoto v 1st Waiheke (Sunday, 12.55pm AEDT)
QF3: 1st Hunua v 2nd Piha (Sunday, 1.45pm AEDT)
QF4: 2nd Hunua v 1st Piha (Sunday, 2.10pm AEDT)
SF1: Winner QF1 v Winner QF2 (Sunday, 3.25pm AEDT)
SF2: Winner QF3 v Winner QF4 (Sunday, 3.50pm AEDT)
Tournament Final (Sunday, 5.30pm AEDT)