The Vodafone Warriors have been handed a testing assignment after being draw in the instantly dubbed ‘pool of death’ for the 2016 Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines at Eden Park on February 6-7 next year.
Today’s draw started with Pool Hunua – the same pool the Vodafone Warriors were in last year – with supermodel Kylie Bax first drawing out the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs followed by the Manly Sea Eagles and then the home side.
Last out of the barrel was Brisbane to round out a pool that certainly warranted the mention of ‘pool of death’.
Between them the four clubs have featured in each of the NRL’s last five grand finals, Manly beating the Vodafone Warriors in 2011, the Bulldogs featuring in the decider in 2012, the Sea Eagles there again in 2013, the Bulldogs once more in 2014 and the Broncos this year.
Bax was apologetic about the pool she had drawn but Vodafone Warriors coach Andrew McFadden – who was at the draw with second rower Ryan Hoffman – wasn’t concerned.
“Obviously it looks like a strong pool but you just don’t know in this competition,” was his first impression.
Superstar signings Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Issac Luke have already indicated they’re determined to take part in the pre-season spectacular as has 2014-2015 NRL Nines captain Shaun Johnson.
“Roger and Issac have certainly made their thoughts felt – they want to play,” he said.
“I would say the likelihood would be positive. It would be a great introduction for them to be pulling on a Vodafone Warriors jersey for the first time while Shaun naturally wants to play again.”
The Vodafdone Warriors will wear a stunning strip for the Nines, the jersey including tattoo-styled representations of each of the 16 clubs. Buy it now @ www.warriorsstore.co.nz
Queensland State of Origin coach Mal Meninga, who also attended the draw, pointed out that the last two NRL Nines champions – the South Sydney Rabbitohs and North Queensland Cowboys – had also claimed an NRL premiership over the last two years.
“Early success is important in the NRL and because the Nines is such a team-oriented event it can build confidence in the players and a culture of success for the season ahead,” he said.
“The beauty of our competition is that most teams can win on their day and the Nines is no different.”
NRL general manager of football Nathan McGuirk believed the 2016 event would prove to be the most successful to date. The return of the club community programme and teams warming up in front of fans on the main field would deliver even greater fan engagement with the superstar players.
McGuirk also hailed the retention of the three-match women’s series between the Kiwi Ferns and Jillaroos.
“That was one of the biggest hits of last year. We are really confident this is going to be the biggest and best Nines tournament yet.”
Supermodel Bax, who produced a draw that also included the potential for a traditional season-opening clash between the Roosters and Rabbitohs, said she was a huge fan of the event.
“The Nines is exciting, exhilarating and so fast, which is exactly what people want these days,” she said.
“While it is sport, it is also one big festival and this year falls on a fantastic weekend with Waitangi Day being New Zealand’s day.”
Dick Smith general manager of operations Sasa Loncar said the company was proud to continue its association with the event heading into its third year as naming rights sponsor.
“This event continues to grow each year in terms of fan following media exposure. Over the last two years we have seen over 160,000 fans attend, making it the Greatest Weekend.”
With Billy Slater declaring himself available and all 16 clubs contracted to bring a host of big names, the tournament’s third edition promises to be the most star-studded yet.
2016 DICK SMITH NRL AUCKLAND NINES | POOLS
POOL HUNUA | Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, Manly Sea Eagles, Vodafone Warriors, Brisbane Broncos
POOL WAIHEKE | Sydney Roosters, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Parramatta Eels, Melbourne Storm
POOL RANGITOTO | Newcastle Knights, North Queensland Cowboys, Penrith Panthers, Wests Tigers
POOL PIHA | St George Illawarra Dragons, Canberra Raiders, Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, Gold Coast Titans
2014: North Queensland Cowboys beat Brisbane Broncos 16-7
2015: South Sydney Rabbitohs beat Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks (18-14 aet)
2016 DICK SMITH NRL AUCKLAND NINES
February 6-7, 2016
Eden Park, Auckland
All 16 NRL clubs together in Auckland
Featuring 288 star players
31 action packed games
Nine players per team, nine-minute halves
$NZ2.6 million dollars plus in prize money
Three-match women’s series between Kiwi Ferns and Jillaroos
More than 90,000 fans expected over two days