The Toyota Cowboys’ NRL Auckland Nines squad have had their first training run together and coach Paul Green expects them to be “more than competitive” at Eden Park this weekend.
The 16-man team will be captained by Gavin Cooper and includes a near full-strength forward pack featuring James Tamou, Jason Taumalolo, Tariq Sims, Ray Thompson, Joel Riethmuller and Rory Kostjasyn.
Michael Morgan and Robert Lui will fill the halves roles with back-up from Thompson and Kostjasyn, while the backline has the experience of Kane Linnett, Lachlan Coote and Antonio Winterstein combined with the pace of young guns Zac Santo, Javid Bowen, Kyle Feldt and Curtis Rona.
Anthony Mitchell will travel as 17th man.
“When you look at the guys I’ve named, I think we’ll be more than competitive,” Green said today.
“Obviously it’s not the best team we can field, but it’s certainly going to be exciting to see some of those younger guys with a bit of open space and to see how some of the bigger guys go, like Jimmy Tamou and Jason Taumalolo.
“We’ve got some athletic guys who will be a real handful with a more open field.
“We haven’t spent too much time preparing for it. Today will be a day that we’ll focus specifically on what we’re going to do with the Nines.
“We’ll have a bit of a chat about some of the changes to the rules and how we think it might be best to play that style of game.”
Green said the Cowboys would adopt a “no pressure” philosophy with the two-day tournament which they will start with pool matches against Manly, Canberra and tournament favourites NZ Warriors.
“We’re going over there to enjoy it and play a bit of footy without too much pressure on the results,” he said.
“They’re putting it on as an event over there to get some support in New Zealand for rugby league.
“I think it’s important that we try to play an attacking style of play.
“The NRL is very defence-focused so this is an opportunity for everyone to get out there with no pressure and throw the ball around.”