The Dyldam Parramatta Eels have drawn Manly Warringah Sea Eagles, Newcastle Knights and the St George Illawarra Dragons in the 2015 Auckland Nines Pool Draw and Peta Hiku and Dane Gagai opened up to parraeels.com.au during the official tournament launch yesterday (December 11).
Eels fans will be watching Hiku and Gagai closely, with the two outside backs eager to impress in the fast paced, free-flowing tournament.
“It will be a lot of fun to go and back and take part in the Auckland Nines. I’m hoping I get the chance to go and play again so I am really looking forward to it” Hiku said.
“After playing in last year’s Auckland Nines competition, it was a great experience, not only for me but for everybody that was a part of it” Gagai agreed.
“The atmosphere was unreal, everybody in their costumes, all the fans supporting their teams and that real party atmosphere and that real enjoyable style of footy” he added.
The two entertaining footballers know that the Eels will be dangerous with plenty of talent and size across the park.
“Hopefully Anthony Watmough doesn’t come along and give us a touch up!” Hiku said.
“But even Junior Paulo, he’s a big boy himself! Hopefully the Eels don’t bring across too many big players like him.”
“Every team is going to have their young players that not too many people have heard about but will definitely make a statement come the Nines so you just have to watch out for everybody!” Gagai warned.
“Being an outside back, ill try and use a bit of footwork on those big fellas like Junior Paulo.”
“Having that open space is going to be better for the outside backs, but every other team is going to have their danger men so we’re just going to have to come prepared” he added.
Despite Hiku and Gagai looking to impress, the two pinpointed other dangermen that the Blue and Gold should keep an eye on.
“Josh Dugan, if he plays, he will be a danger man because he’s so hard to get a hold of and he has a good offload on him” Hiku said.
“Dane Gagai is good on his feet and will also beat a lot of players one on one” he added.
“Sione Mata’utai had a great season for us last year in his 4-5 games and then going on to represent the country” said Gagai.
With the tournament coming into it’s second year, Hiku and Gagai expected to continue to see free-flowing, fast paced football that featured in it’s inaugural year.
“Probably the fitness since there was so much running around. Not only that, you have to tackle non stop, theres offloads and then you are tackling twice in one tackle!” Hiku recalled.
“Fitness is so much part of that game, there is just so much running.”
“I think it comes down to the cardio and who’s going to be able to play every game the way they start. Cardio is probably the biggest factor so I’ve been trying to get into the best shape I can for it, but in saying that, it’s going to be some tough games of footy but enjoyable and fun” Gagai said.
And during the launch, which saw a range of innovate designs from all 16 NRL clubs, Gagai commented on the Aussie Rule-style tops that will feature in the summer event.
“It’s obviously a bit different. I think it’s going to be a lot harder to make a tackle on them when they are sticking out their arm and there is nothing to grab onto except sweaty armpits!” Gagai joked.
“It’s different but that’s what the Nines is. It’s obviously exciting football and you don’t know what to expect!”