BY SCOTT DILLON & KANE AUSTIN
We are just a few short days away from the first ever Rugby League World Cup Nines and what a tournament it should be. It will also be ably supported by the women’s four-team round-robin Nines competition.
But before we get into the games on Friday afternoon, let’s take a quick tap.
Powerhouse winger Ryan Hall was hampered by injury at the NRL premiership-winning Sydney Roosters in 2019 but says he can’t wait to get back onto the international stage. The Leeds Rhinos legend has been named in the Great Britain Lions squad but will first represent England at this weekend’s World Cup Nines.
“It is pretty cool to be a part of especially as it’s the first Nines World Cup,” Hall told The Yorkshire Post.
“I’ve had a look through the teams and there’s some good rosters there ready for the weekend.”
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
It’s a triumphant return to Australian shores for new Kumuls skipper Rhys Martin. The second-rower was a standout in recent years at the embattled Canterbury club but was shown the door to take up a deal with Leeds in England. Martin will lead the Kumuls out this weekend for the first time.
It has been quite the journey to the Nines World Cup for the USA’s Joe Eichner. The former baseball player made his rugby league debut for Jacksonville in the American premiership in 2010. Eichner was noticed at a trial in England and was signed by the Toronto Wolfpack. After appearing at the 2017 World Cup, he then agreed to a contract with the Junee Diesels in NSW bush footy before linking with the Northern Pride, making his Queensland Cup debut in 2019.
Keep an eye out for speedster Regan Grace this weekend. A huge talent. Many are still scratching his head after he missed out on selection in the Lions touring party.
Raiders star Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad originally confirmed he was set to represent Cook Islands at the Nines but then withdrew after a taxing season that saw Canberra fall just short to the Roosters in the NRL grand final. But then CNK had a change of heart. Only problem was, he pledged his allegiance to the Kiwis instead. But the breakout fullback says there’s no hard feeling with the Kukis.
“They’ll be happy for me, more than anything as I would have been if it was the other way around,” Nicoll-Klokstad said.
Reinstated Tongan coach Kristian Woolf says he didn’t pick Israel Folau for the Nines or the nation’s upcoming Tests because Folau hadn’t played rugby league for almost a decade. Tonga’s suspended board had announced Folau’s selection without notifying the RLIF. It came after they had also dismissed Woolf as coach. Back by popular demand, Woolf said loyalty to his current crop of players was the major factor in ignoring Folau’s natural ability.
“‘Izzy’ is a tremendous athlete and in all my dealings with him he’s always been really respectful,” Woolf said.
“I’ve got no reason to think he wouldn’t fit into our environment really well. But I can only pick a team on what I see right now, and right now in Izzy’s case, he hasn’t played rugby league in nine years nor any professional sport for six months. For that I couldn’t consider him.”
Keep an eye out for rugby union convert Ahmad Harajly who will make his debut for Lebanon this weekend in Parramatta. Harajly, born in Michigan, is a former USA representative in the 15-man game. He’s a big boy too. The outside back is 193 cm’s and weighs a tick over 100 kilograms.
Kukis young guns Reuben and Vincent Rennie will have plenty of support behind them at the Nines and plenty of that can be attributed to their mum Tania who runs a program called ‘Coaching#1Supporters which helps parents look after their kids as they come through the lower grades into the elite competitions.
The French won’t die wondering and always play with passion. Better still, of the 17 players announced in the squad, just two currently play their club footy outside of France (Hakim Miloudi – Toronto and Louis Jouffret – Featherstone).
Maika Sivo, the king of Bankwest Stadium returns in Fijian colours. This version of the game will make Sivo even more dangerous which is a scary thought for opposition teams in his pool. Expect the ‘SIVO’ chant to go up several times on Friday and Saturday.
Daly Cherry-Evans could be a dark horse for player of the tournament despite only joining the Australian camp in the last few days after replacing Cody Walker. DCE had a huge year in the NRL for Manly and was preparing for upcoming Test matches against New Zealand and Tonga when he received a phone call from coach Mal Meninga.
The most unrecognisable name in the Samoan squad is Penrith youngster Dean Blore. A 21-year-old five-eigth originally from the Brothers club, Blore has already represented the Junior Kiwis and even faced his brother Shawn who was playing for Australia in a match in 2018.