Wests Tigers have today announced their team for the 2016 Auckland Nines, with a young and exciting squad set to take Eden Park by storm next weekend.
In case you missed it, click here to see the full Auckland Nines team announcement.
Get to know a little more about each player in this year’s Auckland Nines squad below!
Chris Lawrence (captain) — 27 years old, Second Row/Centre
Chris will captain the Club’s Auckland Nines team for the second consecutive season and, as always, will lead from the front with his work ethic. He has a great motor, and will cause plenty of problems with his strong line running and ball skills. A former Australian centre, Chris is also capable of slotting into the back-line if needed.
Josh Addo-Carr — 20 years old, Wing/Fullback
Josh set the Holden Cup alight in the past two years at Cronulla, scoring 28 tries in 44 games and winning the Sharks’ NYC Player of the Year in 2015. Easily one of the fastest players in the squad, if not the whole tournament, and definitely one to keep an eye on!
Jack Buchanan — 23 years old, Prop
A mobile prop forward, Jack showed he was well suited to the Nines last year by scoring Wests Tigers’ first try of the tournament. He’s very fit for a front-rower, which will prove handy in the fast-paced action we’re bound to see take place next weekend.
Tyler Cassel — 20 years old, Second Row/Lock
Aggressive in defence, Tyler makes the step up to the senior squad this year having spent the past two seasons in Holden Cup. He has good ball skills and is renowned for his great tackle technique and high fitness levels, which will suit the Nines tournament.
Michael Chee Kam — 23 years old, Second Row/Centre
Another of Wests Tigers’ new recruits for 2016, Michael was a decorated rugby league junior and will feature in his third Auckland Nines campaign. Primarily a back-rower, the former Sea Eagle is also capable of playing in the centres due to his attacking ability.
Manaia Cherrington — 21 years old, Hooker
One of the best young hookers in the game, Manaia broke his way into the first-grade squad last year and will look to stand up once more as the sole hooker in Wests Tigers’ Nines squad this year. He has one of the best dummies around the ruck in the game and loves to take advantage of any opportunities that could come off a quick play-the-ball. The only player to feature for Wests Tigers in all three Auckland Nines tournaments.
Josh Drinkwater — 23 years old, Halfback
Winning the Club’s NSW Cup Player of the Year Award in 2015, Josh will look to pick up where he left off in last year’s Nines following a number of strong performances. Has a very strong kicking game, which cannot be underestimated in attacking footy.
Rod Griffin — 29 years old, Prop/Second Row/Lock
Rod showed his ability to play big minutes in the middle of the field last year with the Ipswich Jets and will be looking to further impress the Club’s coaching staff with a strong Nines campaign. He’s a tough tackler and runs good attacking lines, and could feature either in the middle or on an edge throughout the tournament.
Watson Heleta — 20 years old, Centre
Could be one of the breakout stars of the tournament. Watson is a powerful and strong centre with excellent speed and footwork to match. Joining the senior squad in 2015 after two years in the Club’s Holden Cup squad (where he scored 29 tries in 33 games), he could cause plenty of havoc throughout the tournament down the left wing.
Justin Hunt — 27 years old, Fullback/Wing
Justin will seemingly spend most of his time at fullback in this year’s Nines campaign having joined Wests Tigers this year from the Dragons. The speedy outside back has a knack of finding his way across the line and will be a good asset to the Club’s attack.
Lamar Liolevave — 20 years old, Second Row
A Marist Saints junior, Lamar returns for his second Auckland Nines campaign after getting his first taste last season. A dangerous ball-runner, Lamar will look to operate largely on the left edge, and has a good offload to match his sharp footwork.
Jack Littlejohn — 24 years old, Five-Eighth/Halfback
Another of the Club’s new recruits, Jack has impressed the coaching staff greatly throughout pre-season and will partner Josh Drinkwater in the halves at this year’s Nines. A former fullback, Jack features as one of the fittest players at the Club and will look to continue his strong off-season with a solid tournament in Auckland.
Kyle Lovett — 22 years old, Second Row
After a breakout year in 2015 that him feature at the Auckland Nines, play over 20 first-grade games in his debut season and end the year as the Club’s Rookie of the Year, look for Kyle to build off that platform in 2016. A solid tackler with a strong motor, the Leichhardt junior is a great asset for the Club’s Nines team with his overall work ethic.
Nathan Milone — 21 years old, Centre
Another first-grade debutant from 2015, Nathan will get his first taste at the Nines this year, and will look to show what he can down the right wing. A former captain of the Club’s Holden Cup side, Nathan has great footwork to get outside his man, and is a sound defender close to the line as well — attributes that should suit the Nines style of play.
Kevin Naiqama — 26 years old, Centre/Wing
The flying Fijian was a handful for defenders at last year’s Nines and no doubt will be again in 2016. Back even more physically superior than last year, Kevin has the ability to crash through tackles with his strength and acceleration, or simply burst around the outside with blistering speed — making him a tough prospect to come up against.
Tim Simona — 24 years old, Centre/Wing/Fullback
One of the fastest men in rugby league, Tim scored a number of spectacular long-range tries in 2015 and will be out to do it again at the Auckland Nines. Blessed with unbelievable acceleration, the Samoan international has great hands and throws a beautiful no-look pass, which could certainly come out at some point in the tournament. Capable of playing anywhere across the back-line where needed.
Ava Seumanufagai — 24 years old, Prop
Don’t tell Ava big men aren’t suited for the Nines. The powerful prop, who hails from Wellington, possesses a great tackling technique and plenty of power in his legs to cause issues in the middle of the field and, importantly, get quick play-the-balls too. Ava showed the ability to play big minutes last year, especially over the Origin period, so while we’re not quite expecting him to get through the full game, he’ll definitely handle the fast-paced nature of the Nines better than some other big men out there.
Sauaso Sue — 23 years old, Second Row/Lock/Prop
A real talent to watch out for in 2016. He’s bigger, stronger, faster and more determined than ever before to leave his mark on the opposition this year — be that with his tough carries or brutal defence, which has greatly impressed the coaching staff this year. Capable of playing anywhere in the forwards, Sauaso will be one of the leaders at this year’s Nines and will use his size and mobility to help Wests Tigers in every contest.