7 teams competing over two days of Nines footy! Get ready for big hits, long-range tries, bonus zone tries, thrills and spills. And only one team can be crowned the 2017 Schwarz Excavations Nines Champions. We’ve run the rule over the eight teams competing…….
Players to Watch:Daniel Levi – SPEED, SKILL and EVASION. Levi has them all in abundance. Will be the X-factor for the Chargers.
Caleb Tull – Tull is the greatest example of where the Norths Chargers list is at the moment. A supremely talented player who has tasted premiership glory so early in his career, Tull’s ability to steer the team around will go along way towards the Chargers fortunes.
The Preview: When you player losses include the calibre of players of Andrew Dale, Simon Gregory, Brent Williams, Mick Songoro and Jack White it is going to mean you are really up against it. But the challenge is there for Norths premiership winning coach Kane Hardy to rejuvenate his list for the 2017 RRL Premiership defence. Chargers fate in the Nines will depend on how well their youngsters step up.
Our Tip: Norths Chargers is a club with high standards and anything less than a semi-final appearance will be considered a major disappointment. They are in the weaker pool on paper but the player losses look a mountain to overcome. If they can repeat their 2016 Nines semi-final appearance they will have done well.
Coach: Ryan Wilson
Trial Form: GF win over Woorabinda in Linemac Motors Biloela Nines
Players to Watch:
Lance Kuveu - a Capras-drafted player straight from PNG played the majority of the season for the Biloela Panthers last season. Kuveu will be looking to impress the Capras coaching staff so he can jag a spot in the Capras round-1 clash against his fellow countrymen the PNG Hunters.
The Preview: Biloela Panthers don’t appear as strong this season although they do retain Captain-Coach Ryan Wilson at the helm. Wilson, who spent two successful years at Gladstone Wallabys and is a former Burleigh Bears player will look to lead from the front. Five-eighth Daniel Martin and outside back Karl Stevens will need to take their game to whole new level in order to get a shot at the big prize.
Our Tip: Despite their performance at last year’s nines Biloela will again be the real darkhorses of the competition. Out of the spotlight and having to contend with the extra travel other RRL teams don't have to the Panthers could be the surprise packets. Don’t be surprised if they finish top-2 in their pool and jag a semi-final spot and then anything can happen!
Coach: Damien Seibold
Trial Form: 28-8 loss to CQ Capras
Players to Watch: Mitch Power – Reigning Ollie Howden Medal Winner Mitch Power had a season for the ages in 2016. Now a year older can he reproduce the magic to lead the Brothers side to the trophy?
Zaine Hammond – pretty rare for a kid straight out of school to get a mention but this lad can really play. The Calliope product was part of the St. Brendan’s College 1st XIII’s one point grand-final win over TCC and was courted by several NRL clubs. A hard running centre who runs courageous lines and plays well above his weight, Hammond will be suited for the nines.
The Preview: Rockhampton Brothers will name a formidable squad no doubt. However that meant nothing last year as the side bombed out of the Nines in straight sets and were a massive disappointment. Coach Damien Seibold is an astute operator and is sure to have made the necessary adjustments to avoid another early exit.
Our Tip: Rockhampton Brothers are primed to make a run at the title - combine a strong roster laced with youth and experience and strong trial form against the Capras and they will go in as one of the favourites.This side is short-priced favourites with a smattering of Capras contracted players. Coach Seibold will be disappointed with anything less than a semi-final appearance.
Coach: Reggie Cressbrook
Trial Form: GF loss to Biloela in Linemac Motors Biloela Nines
Players to Watch: Keanu Doyle – Son of former Comets utility Gerry Doyle, Keanu Doyle has impressed new coach Reggie Cressbrook in the pre-season.
Michael Thaiday – Cressbrook made special mention of Michael Thaiday and what he brings to the Woorabinda team. A combination of great go-forward and a wealth of experience really helps the young exciting team.
The Preview: The Woori style of footy is suited down to the ground to playing Nines footy. Expect exciting tries and high scoring encounters in front of a raucous crowd.
Our Tip: A Woorabinda team can never be written off in the Nines format ever. And this year luck has it that they appear to have drawn the weaker pool. I fully expect the Warriors to make the semis and push for a grand-final spot. Watch out for the Woorabinda Warriors!
Coach: Dion Callanan
Trial Form: Nil
Players to Watch: Eric Smyth - Has experience playing with the CQ Dingoes sevens rugby side and tipped to be a player to watch.
Shea Cox – A halfback coach Dion Callanan has a big wrap on.
The Preview: It’s hard to know what the Blackwater Crushers will toss up because they are the great unknown of this competition. As we saw with Biloela last year that can be a really good position to be in if you can take advantage of it. Your guess is as good as mine.
Our Tip: Just based on the CH competition not being as strong as the Rocky comp we are going to tip the Blackwater Crushers to struggle to make the semis but who knows really.
Emu Park Emus
Coach: Cheyenne Motu
Trial Form: Nil
Players to Watch: Garrett Field - .Special player with the ability to turn games on their heads at any time with his explosive running and big hitting defence. It’s really great the CQ fans will get to see Field back on the paddock in Rocky.
Masada Iosefa – If he is anywhere close to fit Iosefa could be devastating in the nines format. A veteran of 103 NRL games for the Panthers and Tigers and 2 Internationals for Samoa, Masada Iosefa will add plenty of class to the Emu Park side.
The Preview: The Emus have already started 2017 in a much more promising fashion than their previous two seasons with strong numbers at training under new Captain-Coach Cheyenne Motu. They have drawn the Pool of Death and will need to turn it on to even make it through to the semi-finals.
Our Tip: The Nines Trophy is heading back down to the beach but not in the way you think! The Emu Park Emus are our tip to win the lot. We’re going out on a massive limb here but when you look at the side on paper they are primed to give this title a huge crack. Two players from last years RRL Nines Best-9 in Malcolm Darkin and Brandon Brown will join forces with Motu, Field and Iosefa and add in the skill, guile and kicking game of Yoren Major and you have yourself a serious contender.
Coach: Scott Minto
Trial Form: 24-0 loss to CQ Capras
Players to Watch: George Grant – More weight will fall on the shoulders of Grant with the withdrawal of 2016 RRL Nines Player of the Carnival Jonathon Tavinor. Grant’s speed and direction out of dummy-half can set the platform for the Seagulls THREE-peat.
Jace O’Neill, Sam Lollo, Sam Holzeimer, Brady McKenna – we couldn’t split these young up and comers and in fact we could have named 4-5 more of the same ilk. Yeppoon seems to be a production line of young, fit, fast and tough players and these four players typify that.
The Preview: Yeppoon Seagulls Coach Scott Minto had a horrid run with injuries in the Nines last year and that extended into the side’s RRL campaign. David Still has relocated to the Gold Coast and he is a big loss, but his brother John Still should step up and fill the void. Yeppoon are the team to beat purely on the fact they are a proven side at this format of the game and will come to compete in every game.
Our Tip: It'd be a brave man to tip against the Seagulls to defend their title. Their roster is still very strong and they are a side that plays with an impenetrable belief in there system. Yeppoon Seagulls should be there when the whips are cracking in this competition. Grand-finalists and maybe an historic THREE-peat?
UPDATE – Jace O’Neill, Sam Lollo, Brady McKenna and a host of other top-liners for the two-time defending champions have been ruled out late in the week due to injury niggles or work commitments making it even more difficult hill to climb for the THREE-peat.