Compete. That is the mindset Melbourne Storm will take to the Auckland Nines this weekend.
The Club has named its 18-man squad, containing a mix of new and experienced players for what will be the third installment of the pre-season tournament.
Blake Green will captain the side that boasts an average age of 22 years and four months.
Assistant Adam O’Brien, who will coach the team, believes the players chosen will provide the perfect platform for a competitive effort.
“We are taking probably our most experienced squad that we’ve taken over since the Nines started. I think we’ve got a really good balance there of young guys and older guys,” O’Brien said.
“The guys that we are taking have certainly earned it, we are not taking guys who haven’t earned the right to get on the plane.
“They are ready to play, whether it’s Nines or trials they are really itching to get out there and compete.”
With plenty of fresh faces in the squad including off-season recruits Jeremy Hawkins, Mark Nicholls and Curtis Scott, the Nines shapes as a pivotal weekend for players looking to stake their claim for first-grade positions in season 2016.
Such an opportunity will bring an entirely new element of competition to the pre-season tournament.
“Just looking at the guys that are going over there to compete, whilst they are competing against other sides in the NRL they are still vying for spots in our trials,” O’Brien said.
“There is some healthy competition for a large number of spots. It is their first chance to go out there and show the coach what they’ve got.”
Storm will play trial matches against Wests Tigers and Canterbury in the weeks following the Auckland Nines as they gear up to kick off-season 2016 at AAMI Park on March 7.
Billy Slater and Jesse Bromwich, while not playing in the tournament, will still travel to Auckland with the squad to assist O’Brien and the coaching staff.
Apart from the acres of space afforded in this shortened format of the game, there is one added adjustment players must make in order to brace themselves come next weekend.
“It’s fast, it’s really fast,” O’Brien said.
“Just because there’s space there you can’t always pass to that space. You need to have your wits about you and be a little bit smart tactically.
“There is an opportunity to showcase some skill but they will have some lungs burning there for a while, it’s a fast game.
“We really get to see those guys that are going to compete, you can compete on both sides of the field, whether you’ve got the footy or you haven’t. There will be plenty of opportunities to impress the coach by chasing some line breaks down.”