The NRL Auckland Nines returns once again in 2017 for the fourth instalment of the annual reduced format competition. A number of new faces will have the opportunity to take the field in the Red and Green and stake their claim for a spot in Michael Maguire’s top 17 for the oncoming season.
A host of stars including Jonathan Thurston, Jarryd Hayne and Shaun Johnston have confirmed their availability as the competition looks set to exceed the benchmarks that have been set in previous years. We have highlighted a number of crucial encounters over the two days that should not be missed
Rabbitohs v. Raiders – Hunua Pool – February 4th (Day 1, 1:05pm)
The Rabbitohs will take on the Canberra Raiders in their opening encounter of the weekend in the Hunua Pool. Coming off the back of an impressive regular season, the Raiders will be looking to prove themselves once more when they launch their nines campaign against the men in Cardinal and Myrtle. Despite having limited success in the early years of the Auckland Nines, Canberra managed to qualify for the quarter finals for the first time in 2016 before being defeated by the New Zealand Warriors. This match will mark the first time that the Rabbitohs and Raiders have squared off in the tournament.
Rabbitohs v. Roosters – Hunua Pool – February 4th (Day 1, 5:00pm)
Rugby leagues oldest rivalry will be reignited once more when the Rabbitohs clash with their cross-town rivals the Sydney Roosters. This will be the second time that the two sides have come together in the nines format with the Rabbitohs claiming a hard fought 14-13 victory over the old foe in last year’s opening match. Both sides failed to progress beyond the group stage of the 2016 tournament, only registering one victory apiece in the Waiheke Pool – something they will hope to change.
Rabbitohs v. Cowboys – Hunua Pool – February 5th (Day 2, 11:05am)
The penultimate match in the Hunua Pool will see the 2014 and 2015 tournament champions clash to cement their position in the final stages of the tournament. Having accounted for the Cowboys 19-12 on their way to their title in 2015, the Rabbitohs will be looking to add to their success over their opponents in the nines competition. Four-time Dally M Medallist, Jonathan Thurston will take the field for North Queensland, adding the star power of the clash and ensuring a high quality display of football.
Sharks v. Titans – Waiheke Pool – February 4th (Day 1, 10:00am)
The opening fixture of the tournament will see the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks take on the Gold Coast Titans in the Waiheke Pool. After securing their maiden NRL premiership, all eyes will be firmly positioned on the Shire-based side as they look to set the tone for their title defence. Similarly, the Titans will be seeking to continue their recent run of regular season form which saw the franchise qualify for the finals for the first time since 2010. Additionally, the competitions debut match will be boosted by the announcement that Gold Coast recruit, Jarryd Hayne will be taking part in the tournament for the first time in 2017.
Women’s Game 1: New Zealand v. Australia – February 4th (Day 1, 1:30pm)
As has been the case in the previous two instalments of the tournament, the New Zealand Kiwi Ferns and Australian Jillaroos will feature in three matches over the two days of rugby league. The Jillaroos have failed to overcome their rivals in both of the prior episodes, suffering two games to one defeats in the 2014 and 2015 series. With the Kiwi Ferns possessing the home advantage and recent run of results, the Australian side will have their work cut-out for them when they head across the ditch. However, with a star studded line-up that includes the likes of Allana Ferguson, Kezie Apps and Ruan Simms, the visitors will be confident as they seek to rectify the past.
Parramatta Eels v. New Zealand Warriors – Piha Pool – February 4th (Day 1, 3:10pm)
Despite a turbulent season on and off the field for the Parramatta Eels and New Zealand Warriors, both sides will be looking to continue their successful track record in Auckland. Having competed against each other in last year’s final – which saw the Eels claim a 22-4 victory – the affair will be one of the must watch pool matches. Shaun Johnston will turn out for the home side, whilst 2016 competition MVP, Corey Norman and top point scorer, Bevan French will don the blue and gold, adding an extra element of excitement to the already enthralling encounter.