The Vodafone Warriors have been drawn alongside St George Illawarra, Parramatta and Manly in Pool Piha at the 2017 Downer NRL Nines at Eden Park on February 4 and 5.
In a quirk the home club was the last of the 16 clubs drawn out of the hat for the fourth edition of the NRL Nines.
It's the third time they've been in the same pool as the Sea Eagles, beating them in 2014 but losing 12-15 when they met in pool play at this year's event.
The Vodafone Warriors went on to meet Parramatta in the 2016 final but the Eels were later stripped of the title after being found guilty of salary cap breaches.
In the three previous tournament the Vodafone Warriors have never met the Dragons.
They'll start their campaign against the Sea Eagles at 1.15pm on February 4 - the fourth match of the day - before taking on the Eels at 5.10pm.
Their last pool match against the Dragons is timed for 11.50am on February 5. They need to finish first or second in their pool to advance to the quarter-finals for the fourth straight time.
The draw was made at Mountain View School in Mangere Bridge today with Vodafone Warriors Ryan Hoffman and Bodene Thompson in attendance along with Cronulla's Wade Graham.
“That Hunua Pool looks really, really tough,” said Hoffman.
“They are all really talented teams. And the Raiders are actually my pick for the tournament – besides us of course. The way that they played their footy at the back-end of last year, they are really dangerous.”
Reigning NRL premiers the Sharks were the first team drawn out of the hat by a group of 16 Mountain View students. The 2015 NRL Nines finalists were joined in Pool Waiheke by Jarryd Hayne’s Titans, the Panthers and Bulldogs.
Wade Graham, a member of the NRL premiership-winning Cronulla side, said he was excited about the prospect of coming up against Hayne.
“He’s one of the great talents in the game and it’s terrific that he is going to be there,” said Graham.
“For us as players getting to test ourselves against players like Jarryd is always a real highlight.”
Martin Snedden, CEO of tournament promoter Duco Events, said the draw would clearly pit some of the game’s biggest stars against each other early on in the tournament.
“You’ve got Johnathan Thurston’s Cowboys up against a Rabbitohs club that is chocked full of talent, and Jarryd Hayne’s Titans up against the reigning NRL premiers the Cronulla Sharks," said Snedden.
"So once again rugby league fans are in for an incredible spectacle. The stars will be out in Auckland in February.”
NRL general manager football operations Nathan McGuirk said: “The NRL Auckland Nines is one of the major events on our calendar.
"It’s a massive undertaking to get every NRL team into one city for a weekend but the event always runs seamlessly and delivers brilliant entertainment for the game’s fans. With some of the game’s very biggest names turning out the 2017 event will be no exception.”
Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development chief executive Brett O’Riley says the Nines has proved its worth to Auckland’s local economy and community.
“The Nines has exceeded its economic targets every year, generating more than $23 million for the Auckland regional economy in its first three years, more than 80 per cent of its five-year target," he said.
"It has lifted the profile of league in Auckland, allowing our people and our visitors to see world-class action on our doorstep, and the club programme lets our grass roots players – particularly the next generation – get up close to their league heroes.”
2017 DOWNER NRL AUCKLAND NINES
February 4-5, Eden Park
Pool Hunua | Cowboys, Roosters, Raiders, Rabbitohs
Pool Waiheke | Sharks, Titans, Panthers, Bulldogs
Pool Rangitoto | Knights, Tigers, Broncos, Storm
Pool Piha | Dragons, Eels, Sea Eagles, Vodafone Warriors