The Dyldam Parramatta Eels yesterday announced their squad to compete in this weekend’s Downer NRL Auckland Nines tournament at Eden Park, captained by five-eighth Corey Norman.
With just under a week to go til the tournament, we take a look at the 18-man Blue and Gold squad.
NRL Experience: 15 games
Cornish joined the Blue and Gold ahead of the 2016 season from the Canberra Raiders with 15 NRL games under his belt. The livewire halfback with quick feet, a deceptive short pass and an accurate kicking game will be suited to the Auckland Nines format. Look for Cornish to be out to impress in his first showing in his new colours.
NRL Experience: 13 games
Bureta Faraimo debuted for the Eels in 2014, scoring a double in the Eels’ win over the Cronulla Sharks. Faraimo, born in New Zealand, returns to the Auckland Nines after featuring heavily in last year’s tournament. The hard-running winger will prove a handful for his opposition coming out of the Eels own half, and close to the try line. A powerhouse out wide with plenty of leg drive.
NRL Experience: 7 games
John Folau made his NRL debut 2015 off the back of a strong showing in the Auckland Nines. A big and strong 21 year old, when Folau gets his legs pumping, he’s a tough ask to stop. Look for Folau to use his speed and power to power over his defenders and utilise his strength close to the line.
NRL Experience: Yet to debut
Lightning-quick on his feet with an incredible turn of speed, 20-year-old French is yet to make his NRL debut, however has shown plenty of his talents in the Under 20s competition. Nines captain Corey Norman has earmarked French as a man to watch during the tournament and the player likely to sit at the top of the Eels try scoring list.
NRL Experience: 63 games
A man of many talents. Gower is an intelligent footballer who can cover a number of positions, proving handy in the Auckland Nines format. When injuries struck the Blue and Gold in Auckland in 2015, Gower stood up, filling in in the back row, lock and half positions. A great passing game in the middle of the ruck along with a handy offload will cause headaches for the opposition.
NRL Experience: 46 games
Kelly returns to the Auckland Nines after playing most of the 2015 tournament at hooker. Versatile, able to step into the halves or cover at hooker, Kelly will not be afraid to control the side and call the shots. Quick on his feet, Kelly’s passing game can create plenty of space for his outside backs or his forwards to hit the line hard.
NRL Experience: 21 games
A crafty hooker who joins the Eels ahead of the 2016 season after stints with the North Queensland Cowboys and St George Illawarra Dragons, King is looking to cement his spot and take his opportunity at the Blue and Gold. Quick and agile from dummy half, King will provide a solid playmaking option and prove a handful for lazy defenders.
NRL Experience: 35 games
Making his debut with the Eels in 2014, Ma’u plays every game at 100%. A hard-running back rower, who hails from Auckland, the 27 year old will thrive in the Nines format with his determined approach to the game. A forward that hits the line with speed and power and a hit man in defence.
NRL Experience: 28 games
A skilful back rower who has made his way through the lower grades at Parramatta, Moeroa made his first grade debut for the Eels in 2014, going on to play 19 NRL matches and represent both the Prime Minister’s XII and Junior Kangaroos in the 2015 season. Moeroa proved a handful in last year’s Auckland Nines tournament, and should thrive again in the format with strong line running and a skilful passing game.
NRL Experience: 85 games
Morgan brings plenty of experience to a relatively young Blue and Gold Auckland Nines squad. The centre/winger will benefit from the Nines format, with plenty of speed to burn in the wide open spaces. Hits holes hard and knows how to finish.
NRL Experience: 9 games
A versatile back-rower who joined the Eels ahead of the 2015 season, Nelson is a skilful, ball playing forward who will be looking to impress ahead of the 2016 season. Dangerous in attack and no slouch in defence, Nelson doesn’t shirk from the tough work in the ruck.
Corey Norman (c)
NRL Experience: 108 games
Norman will skipper the Blue and Gold Auckland Nines squad in 2016 having captained the Eels to a victory over the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles at Brookvale Oval in Round 24 of the 2015 NRL Telstra Premiership. An experienced member of the squad, his passing, running and kicking game will suit the Auckland Nines format.
NRL Experience: 42 games
Junior debuted for the Eels in 2013, and has played 42 games for the Blue and Gold. A hard running forward who is quick and light on his feet, the 119kg prop hits the line fast and hard, attracts multiple defenders and skilful enough to slip a pass to his outside men.
NRL Experience: 49 games
Strong, powerful, quick and knows how to find the try line. The Fijian Flyer is a fan favourite across the entire NRL. The NRL’s leading try scorer in 2015, crossing the white stripe 24 tries in 18 games was named the 2015 Dally M Winger of the Year. A proven performer at the NRL Auckland Nines, fans will be on their feet every time the #semitrailer gets his hands on the ball.
NRL Experience: 16 games
Kelepi Tanginoa returns to the Eels after spending one season at the North Queensland Cowboys. The 21-year-old forward made his first grade debut in 2013 with the Eels, and will be eager to put on a strong display at the Nines tournament. A strong hole-runner who will be hard for any opposition to bring down.
NRL Experience: 52 games
The hard-running front rower returns to his home town for the upcoming Nines tournament. The 24-year-old brings plenty of energy every time he hits the field and the tough runs, hard work close to the ruck and his quick play the balls will benefit the rest of his team. Terepo played at prop and scored a try in Tonga’s 28-8 victory over Samoa last year.
NRL Experience: 26 games
Similar to his teammate Bureta Faraimo, Toutai is a strong outside back with quick feet and good leg drive. The local junior can power over his defenders or use his speed to make the most of the wide open spaces.
NRL Experience: Yet to debut.
Matt Woods joins the Blue and Gold in 2016 from the Wests Tigers. The 20-year-old forward was captain of the Wests Tigers U20 last season and named in the NSW Under 20s State of Origin squad. A mobile forward with a big engine who has trained his guts out during the pre-season.