Nines squad breakdown
With the squad named for this weekend's Auckland Nines tournament, we take an in-depth look, player by player, into how the team will fare across the ditch.
Cheyse Blair – Having made the move from Parramatta at the end of last season, the 21-year-old outside back will provide plenty of pace on the fringes, with impressive speed to match his size and strength.
Jamie Buhrer – Called upon by Ricky Stuart in the 2012 Origin series as an interchange utility, Buhrer will no doubt play a major role in the inaugural tournament. He has an instinctive running game and could easily slot into the halves if required.
Michael Chee Kam - His dynamic running game is bound to cause opposition defensive lines some trouble. The second-rower’s 2013 season was hampered by injury but after an impressive pre-season, Chee Kam has earned himself a ticket to Auckland.
Daly Cherry-Evans – The 2013 Clive-Churchill medallist will have a massive bearing on the team’s progression this weekend. He played a pivotal role in the Sea Eagles’ march to the grand final and will again hold the key in Auckland.
Clinton Gutherson – Having already made his debut for the club late last year, the 19-year-old will bring plenty of speed and flair to the Manly Warringah backline. He’s got an incredible knack of breaking out of tackles and will seek to utilise his evasive footwork in the shorter form of the game.
James Hasson – The versatile forward will provide coach Geoff Toovey with plenty of speed through the ruck. His aggression and mobility up the middle will prove invaluable for the side.
Peta Hiku – The 2013 club Rookie of the Year will relish the opportunity to play in the Auckland Nines. His ability to play in all positions in the backline provides Toovey with some assurance. Look to Hiku as Toovey’s metre-eater this weekend.
Justin Horo – Continually proved his worth throughout 2013, Justin Horo has become an integral part down the Sea Eagles’ left edge. A great defender who has an imposing running game, Horo will certainly cause opposition teams some damage.
Jack Littlejohn – A good communicator with a solid all-round game. Usually a half, his vision and kicking game will undoubtedly cause problems for the opposition this weekend.
Steve Menzies – At age 40, Beaver, believe it or not, isn’t the oldest player at the tournament. Brad Fittler, 42, takes that title. After 21 years in the game, Menzies will make a return to the NRL for the first time in almost six years.
Ligi Sao – With prop forward Richie Fa’aoso announcing his retirement, the promising young front rower will look to push his claim to be a part of the Sea Eagles’ front line this season. An impressive tournament this weekend could very well put him in line for a spot in Toovey’s 17 come round one.
Tony Satini – Having captained the Panthers Under-20s team to a premiership last season, the robust centre will look to shake up the Nines. Close friends with winger Jorge Taufua, the pair may very well play alongside each other in Auckland.
Jesse Sene-Lefao – The giant second-rower will play a big role in helping his side up the field. The 24-year-old father of two has put an injury-prone 2013 behind him and is willing to make up for lost time with the kick-off to the NRL season fast approaching.
Tom Symonds – The Auckland Nines is made for versatile back-rowers like Symonds. He possesses a mountain of talent with ball in hand and can create opportunities for his outside teammates.
Jorge Taufua – Thrilled to be a part of the squad, Taufua will look to make the most of the extra space on the field. You can almost guarantee that the winger will cross the line at some stage over the weekend.
David Williams – Coming off his most productive season in the NRL, Williams is set to explode at the Nines. The Wolfman knows his way to the try-line and he is renowned for scoring some of the games more acrobatic tries.