Parramatta half back Chris Sandow limps from the field in the final seconds of his team’s semi final, the worry etched upon his face a symbolic image of the Auckland Nines tournament. The event aims to be a fast paced, entertaining fixture in a bid for coaches to experiment before the season begins.
Yet the question looms, is it worth risking the games biggest super stars and young prospecs in such a psychically demanding tournament structure before the season has even begun?
Take for example Cronulla young gun Faamanu Brown who tore his ACL in what looms to be a season ending injury for the rising star. The overall the injury list tallied at 13, with Parramatta being hit the hardest with 4 injuries across their squad.
On the football paddock the final stormed down to last years premiers South Sydney taking on the wooden spooners Cronulla. In a tight game that was pushed all the way to extra time, ex Melbourne star Matt King dived over to hand South Sydney their first taste of Pre season glory.
The success of South Sydney at the Nines sees them go in as strong favourites for 2015, despite the loss of Sam Burgess to Rugby Union, whose spot will be filled by the recruiting of Manly Star Glenn Stewart . Expect their strong rivals the Sydney Roosters to struggle this year without Sonny Bill Williams and a struggling James Maloney desperate for form.
With the addition of Ben Barba to their squad Cronulla fans finally have a legitimate hope for some finals footy this year and loom as the bolters of the upcoming season. But who will finish last this year? This answer will not mix well with townies, but without the signing of a genuine star player Canberra will do well not to finish on the bottom of the table.
Let us hope that for this season Rugby League is remembered for what happens on the field and not the antics off the football paddock.