The 2016 Team McMillan Nines is set to kick off the Rockhampton Rugby League season and with some out-of-town teams coming to challenge for the title this year it sets it up for an intriguing two days of Nines footy. Here's the Top-20 Players to Watch in this year's Nines:
PLEASE NOTE: 2015 RRL Nines Player of the Carnival Dean Blackman was not considered due to injury.
20. PJ Marsh - (Rockhampton Brothers)
PJ Marsh might be 36 years old this year but there is still plenty of run in those legs yet. Put that together with the experience of 158 NRL games and 4 State of Origins for Qld and Marsh is sure to bring some starpower to the nines!
19. Malcolm Darkin (Rockhampton Brothers)
Darkin returned mid-season in 2015 after a couple of years riddled with injury problems. Showed glimpses of getting back to his best. Is a speed machine and an intercept specialist. Perfectly suited to Nines footy.
18. Peter Rogers (Biloela Panthers)
Stepping away from the tough task in 2015 of Captain-Coach duties will mean we'll see the best of Pete Rogers for Biloela in 2016. Was fairly dominant for the Biloela Panthers in the 2015 RRL Nines before they ran out of troops.
17. Casey Rogers (Biloela Panthers)
Back again after a year away from the Biloela Panthers Casey Rogers is probably the most important new player for new Panthers Captain-Coach Ryan Wilson. Rogers is a hard-running back-rower with a huge motor.
16. Pat Matulino (Rockhampton Brothers)
Largely unknown in these parts Pat Matulino has been training the house down at Rockhampton Brothers. The brother of NZ Warriors star Ben Matulino, Pat has played high level footy at the Wynnum Manly Seagulls. Rockhampton Brothers Coach Damien Seibold described Matulino as one to watch in the 2016 Team McMillan Nines!
15. Daniel Roberts (Woorabinda Warriors)
Daniel Roberts is a highly talented player with a flair for the unpredictable. With the Warriors sure to play a free flowing style of footy in the 2016 Team McMillan Nines Roberts will be called on to lead the way. Woorabinda Warriors hopes will rest largely on this young man's shoulders.
14. Tom Simpson (Rockhampton Brothers)
Tommy Simpson has been around for a while now and he still remains one of the most dominant players in Rockhampton. Simpson is arguably the mot dangerous dummy half runner against tired defenders the Rocky Rugby League has. Simpson's combination of speed, strength and experience makes him a tough propostion for opposition Nines teams.
13. Mitchell Smith (Norths Chargers)
Scored one of the greatest Grand-final tries of all-time in the RRL with a double chip and chase special that looked like it might have catapulted the Norths Chargers to their long-awaited premiership. Smith is a player with a booming kicking game, deft passing and deceptive speed. One to watch!
12. Rhys Chapman (Rockhampton Brothers)
Former Ollie Howden Medal Winner Rhys Chapman is making a comeback of sorts for Rockhampton Brothers in 2016 and the Nines could be a strong starter for him. With the Canterbury Bulldogs taking big men Sam Kasiano and Shaun Lane for the Auckland Nines it is showing an increasing trend towards the big men in the Nines game. Chapman is sure to wreak havoc in the 2016 Team McMillan Nines.
11. Simon Gregory (Norths Chargers)
A supremely talented athlete, it's great to see Simon Gregory back in rugby league after a couple of years out of the game playing soccer. Gregory is a quality back-rower who has had stints with both the Capras and Penrith Panthers. May take a little time to find his feet but will be tough for defenders to handle in the Nines.
10. Matt Temby (Mackay Magpies)
Matt Temby is a bit of an unknown for Rocky rugby league fans but not in Mackay. A veteran 34-year old player , Temby has won three premierships, all with Souths Sharks, and has had his fair share of great footy moments on and off the field. Magpies Coach Mick Neilsen describes the hooker as a "brilliant attacking player who is very skilful" Temby looks set to light up Browne Park this March!
9. Nathan Barraclough (Emu Park)
Tipped to make his return for the Emu Park Emus under Captain-Coach Dean Blackman, Nathan Barraclough is a difference-maker. Barraclough, who spent time with the NQ Cowboys in the U/20s system before returning to the Capras, is a dangerous proposition in the Nines format. Barraclough presents a triple-threat with an astute left-foot kicking game, clever passing game and a destructive running game.
8. George Grant (Yeppoon Seagulls)
Reigning Ollie Howden Winner George Grant is another who will keep the bigger names honest at the Capras in 2016. Plays in the defending Nines champion side Yeppoon Seagulls. The Seagulls are fit and quick and Grant fits right into the Jason Green system that has been so successful over the last two years.
7.Anthony Raymond (Emu Park)
A mercurial talent there is maybe no other player suited to Nines footy than Anthony Raymond (pictured left). Combine blistering speed with great skill and an innate ability to sniff out a try and the Emu Park Emus Nines title hopes will be influenced heavily by the play of Raymond. Sure to excite the fans.
6. Andrew Dale (Norths Chargers)
Andrew "Heavy" Dale has been terrorising local league players for years with his fearsome charges and huge fends. Dale is a former Capras captain and he leads from the front. Expect that to continue if Dale makes an appearance at this years Nines. The fact that teams will be forced to commit multiple defenders to try to handle "Heavy" will open up space for his support players. Particularly lethal on the left edge.
5. Ratu Nailusu (Biloela Panthers)
Nailusu was one of the most dominant players for the Biloela Panthers in the 2015 RRL Nines before the Panthers bowed out in the Quarter-Finals stage.Think Akuila Uate and Semi Radradra and you have the RRL's version in Ratu Nailusu! A pre-season with the Capras will make sure Nailusu hits the field running.
4. David Still (Yeppoon Seagulls)
Still is a player who has been somewhat underrated in local league circles, but if you ask anyone at Yeppoon Seagulls they will rave about his impact on games. A tough-as-nails backrower with a supreme work ethic, Still has spent the pre-season with the Capras and is sure to be even better this year with the step up to that level of training. Highly regarded by Yeppoon Seagulls Coach Jason Green.
3. Brent Williams (Norths Chargers)
Williams has played 80 Queensland Cup games... that's not a misprint
80 (eighty)!! That stat alone shows you his class. You don't play that many games in the second best competition in Australia if you don't have a lot going for you! Williams has plenty. He is an extremely difficult player to tackle in one-on-one situations with his combination of strength, speed and footy smarts making him a scary proposition in the Nines format.