By Scott Woodward
While I accept it is very difficult to frame a market for the inaugural NRL Nines this weekend, the famous St George Illawarra Dragons are not entitled to be on the 7th line of betting based on the exciting squad they have selected. They take on everyone’s boom team the Rabbitohs, but they more than match them in all areas. The Cronulla Sharks have also selected an impressive line-up and also represent great value but have to take on a strong Titans team full of speedsters. I think the Sharks can match them in the speed ranks and have more second phase skills. The Warriors (5.5), the Knights (9.0) and the Panthers (10.0) have all listed exciting teams but represent poor value and I will be opposing them. I have backed the Sharks (14.0 now 12.0) and the Dragons (15.0 now 13.0) and believe they are still value and should be on the second line of the market. I have gone cold on the Eels with Hayne pulling out but still expect the Tigers to go well at 26.0, while the big query is clearly the Sea Eagles (26.0) who definitely need to cash but the market has marked them down as “not really interested”. They will just about win if they are.
Roosters 26.0 Mitchell Pearce (c), Jake Friend (c), Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Aidan Guerra, Kane Evans, Daniel Tupou, Samisoni Langi, Jackson Hastings, Dylan Napa, Isaac Liu, Nene Macdonald, Jonathon Rueben, Paul Rokolati, Rhyse Martin, Saulala Houma, Siosiua Taukeiaho, Brad Fittler COMMENT: Very fast, fit athletic squad with huge reliance on young forwards Napa Evans to hit it up and create second phase play. Hastings and Taukeiaho are stars of the future. Tough draw and 6 players have to back up next week in the World Club Challenge. Key outs Jennings, Tuivasa-Sheck, Maloney, Waerea-Hargreaves, SBW and Cordner
Bulldogs 51.0 Sam Perrett, Mitch Brown, Chase Stanley, Tyrone Phillips, Ed Murphy, Moses Mbye, Drury Low, Tim Browne, Michael Ennis (c), Dale Finucane, Josh Jackson, Tony Williams, Pat O’Hanlon, Lachlan Burr, Corey Thompson, Lloyd Perrett. COMMENT: Watch Moses Mbye he is a real athlete, but sadly the coach is not serious about winning. Key outs Inu, Lafai, Morris, Talioe Sila, Reynolds, Hodkinson, Tolman, Kasiano, Pritchard, Eastwood and Graham
Eels 21.0 Willie Tonga (c), Kenny Edwards, Bureta Faraimo, John Folau, Manu Ma’u, Fuifui Moimoi, Ryan Morgan, Corey Norman, Pauli Pauli, Joseph Paulo, Nathan Peats, Api Pewhairangi, Semi Radradra, Chris Sandow, Ken Sio, Peni Terepo, Vai Toutai. COMMENT: No Hayne is a shocker and a shame as they had a good draw and a real winning chance. Joe Paulo’s ball skills make him the most dangerous. Key outs Hayne, Hopoate, Kelly, Mannah, Mossop, Tanginoa and Smith.
Panthers 10.0 Matt Moylan, Wes Naiqama, Josh Mansour, Isaac John, Kevin Naiqama, Jamie Soward, Jeremy Latimore, Sam Mckendry, Kevin Kingston, Tyrone Peachey, Lewis Brown, Adam Docker, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Etonia Nabuli, George Jennings, Isaah Yeo. COMMENT: They have still come up with a very fast athletic squad although not many distributors, more flyers. Shame we don’t get to see some of the real young guns. Key outs Segeyaro, Moseley, Watene Zelezniak, Moss, Whare, Taylor and Grant.
Titans 11.0 William Zillman, Brad Tighe, David Mead, Kevin Gordon, Albert Kelly, Greg Bird, Ashley Harrison, Anthony Don, Paul Carter, Kalifa Faifai Loa, Brad Takairangi, Mark Minichiello, Maurice Blair, Luke Bailey, Siuatonga Likiliki, David Taylor. COMMENT: They need the cash and a well-balanced squad with brilliant pace, high work rates and ball skills but have to beat the Sharks. Key outs Sezer, Myles, Srama, and James.
Rabbitohs 26.0 Nathan Merritt, Beau Champion, Alex Johnston, Joel Reddy, Dylan Walker, Luke Keary, Apisai Koroisau, Dave Tyrrell, Irae Simone, Ben Lowe, Chris McQueen, Ben Te’o (c), John Sutton, Cameron McInnes, Kyle Turner, Lote Tuqiri. COMMENT: Not their best squad and more interest in their round 1 game v the Roosters but Walker and Keary should be stars in this format. Key outs Inglis, Goodwin, Reynolds, Luke and Burgess brothers.
Cowboys 17.0 Lachlan Coote, Zac Santo, Antonio Winterstein, Kane Linnett, Javid Bowen, Michael Morgan, Robert Lui, Jason Taumalolo, Ray Thompson, James Tamou, Gavin Cooper, Tariq Sims, Joel Riethmuller, Rory Kostjasyn, Kyle Feldt, Curtis Rona COMMENT: Have NZ first up and Lui, Taumalolo and T. Sims will be targeted in defence but they will field some exciting youngsters like Santo, J. Bowen and Rona while Tamou should excel here. Key outs Thurston, Tate, Scott, King, Hall, A. Sims.
Broncos 11.0 Ben Barba, Josh Hoffman, Dale Copley, Alex Glenn, Stewart Mills, Kodi Nikorima, Ben Hunt, Martin Kennedy, Andrew McCullough, Sam Thaiday, Matt Gillett, Jordan Drew, Corey Parker (c), David Stagg, Todd Lowrie, Zac Strasser, Joe Ofahengaue, Jake Granville COMMENT: You have to like this squad with Barba likely to be untouchable and Gillett and Parker should appreciate the small numbers. Have a kind draw with the Bulldogs first up. Key outs Hoffman, Reed, Oates, Hodges, Kahu, Hannant and McGuire.
Sea Eagles 26.0 Cheyse Blair, Jamie Buhrer, Michael Chee-Kam, Daly Cherry-Evans, Clinton Gutherson, James Hasson, Peta Hiku, Justin Horo, Jack Littlejohn, Steve Menzies, Ligi Sao, Tony Satini, Jesse Sene-Lefao, Tom Symonds, Jorge Taufua, David Williams. COMMENT: Face weakened Raiders first up and the super DCE will play with gun Taufua but they have left out their two fittest players (Ballin & Lawrence). Good mix of pace and skills with a better side than expected. Key outs B Stewart, G Stewart, Lyon, Foran, Lawrence, King, Ballin, Watmough and Horo.
Wests Tigers 26.0 James Tedesco, David Nofoaluma, Pat Richards, Bodene Thompson, Marika Koroibete, Mitchell Moses, Blake Austin, Aaron Woods, Robbie Farah (c), Martin Taupau, Cory Paterson, Curtis Sironen, Adam Blair, Manaia Cherrington, Kurtis Rowe, James Gavet (17th Man: Delouise Hoeter). COMMENT: Play the Knights first up. Hot squad expected to go deep with flyers Nofoaluma, Koroibete and Moses with Farah a confirmed starter. Key outs Lawrence, Simona, Anasata, Brooks, Galloway, Murdoch-Masila and Fulton.
Dragons 13.0 Josh Dugan, Brett Morris (c), Dylan Farrell, Nathan Green, Jason Nightingale, Adam Quinlan, Sam Williams, Jack de Belin, Mitch Rein, Tyson Frizell, Leeson Ah Mau, Joel Thompson, Trent Merrin, Bronson Harrison, Michael Witt, Craig Garvey COMMENT: Play the Rabbitohs first up and have a great chance with Dugan and Morris both freakish with the ball while Merrin is a brilliant off loader. Key outs Beale, Widdop, Stanley, Hunt and Creagh.
Storm 41.0 Will Chambers, Sisa Waqa, Joel Romelo, Mahe Fonua, Matt Duffie, Young Tonumaipea, Mitch Garbutt, Justin O’Neill, Tohu Harris, Matthew Lodge, Kevin Proctor, Ryan Hoffman (c), Slade Griffin, Kurt Mann, Cameron Munster, Richie Kennar COMMENT: Watch Lodge he is a young Lazarus. Play Panthers without their big 3 guns. Look forward to seeing Mann and Munster run the team. Key outs Slater, Cronk, Smith, Bronwhich, Hinchcliffe and Rose.
Sharks 12.0 Nathan Gardner, Nathan Stapleton, Blake Ayshford, Jonathan Wright, Sosaia Feki, Todd Carney, Daniel Holdsworth, Andrew Fifita, Michael Lichaa, Sam Tagataese, Wade Graham, Matt Prior, Paul Gallen, Ricky Leutele, Tupou Sopoaga, Fa’amanu Brown COMMENT: This is a hot squad with all the skills and genuine pace to burn led by Carney, Gallen, Graham and the amazing Fifita who nines looks made to order for. Key outs Gordon, Ryan, Robson, Gibbs, Morris, De Gois, Tupou, Lewis and Heighinton.
Knights 9.0 Jarrod Mullen (c), Adam Cuthbertson, Jake Mamo, Dane Gagai, Joseph Leilua, Akuila Uate, Tyrone Roberts, Willie Mason, Adam Clydsdale, Chris Houston, Beau Scott, Robbie Rochow, Jeremy Smith, Michael Dobson, Alex McKinnon, Zane Tetevano. COMMENT: Given their list they have come up with a handy squad but missing their fittest player in Gidley. Key outs Boyd, McManus, Gidley, Snowden and Hilda.
Raiders 51.0 Jarrod Croker (c), Reece Robinson, Mitch Cornish, Bill Tupou, Matt McIlwrick, Joel Edwards, Glen Buttriss, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Jarrad Kennedy, Mark Nicholls, Jake Foster, Lagi Setu, Mitch Cronin, Luke Bateman, Jack Ahearn, Andrew Heffernan. COMMENT: Coach is not travelling. Watch young fullback Jack Ahearn. Key outs Milford, Wighton, Lee, Campese, McCrone, White, Papalii and Fensom.
Warriors 5.5 Jayson Bukuya, Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Glen Fisiiahi, David Fusitua, Charlie Gubb, Konrad Hurrell, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Shaun Johnson, Solomone Kata, Ngani Laumape, Tuimoala Lolohea, Sione Lousi, Suaia Matagi, Dominique Peyroux, Sam Tomkins, Carlos Tuimavave. COMMENT: Nines favs with champion Tomkins playing now with Johnson and Hurrell. Key outs Locke, Nielsen, Vatuvei, Leuluai, Rapira, Friend, Matulino, Mateo and Mannering.