As the excitement surrounding the inaugural Auckland Nines continues to build, Dragons young gun Adam Quinlan believes the tournament could prove the ideal audition for a spot in the top grade.
Steve Price is yet to name his squad for the event, but Quinlan’s ability to play anywhere in the backline could make him a valuable inclusion.
‘‘It’d be great to get a chance at the Nines [as] I think it would suit my game,’’ Quinlan said.
‘‘We’ve got a very tough pool with the Storm and the Rabbitohs and Penrith look like they’ll be really strong as well.
‘‘It’s going to be a great competition, so hopefully I get a chance over there.’’
The 21-year-old hopes a potential Nines start will be the first step to claiming an interchange utility role when NRL season begins.
‘‘I think that [utility] is probably the role I’ve got to aim for this year,’’ Quinlan said.
‘‘With Josh [Dugan] fit at the back, two new halves and another five guys going for those spots, I think the utility role is my best chance.’’
With specialist positional play likely to take a back seat to free-flowing football, multi-talented youngster Jack Bird could also prove a surprise strike weapon.
The 18-year-old Berkeley product is targeting a back row position in his first NRL pre-season, but has proven adept at five-eighth and in the centres as a junior.
He feels the Nines format could showcase the all-round skill set he’s modelled on the likes of Sonny Bill Williams and Glenn Stewart.
‘‘We haven’t spoken too much about the Nines, we’ve just been focused on the pre-season, but I’d love a crack,’’ Bird said.
‘‘It could suit me. Last year I played a bit of five-eighth and in the centres but this pre-season I’ve been training in the back row and that’s where I really want to play.
‘‘There’s a lot of good players here like Joel Thompson and all the other [back row] boys so it’s going to be really hard to fit in there.
‘‘I’ve just got to keep working hard and hopefully I’ll get a start, if not for the Nines then hopefully the Charity Shield.’’
The pair took time out from their hectic pre-season schedule to carry the NRL’s ‘Tackle Bullying’ campaign to Albion Park Rail Public School yesterday, a cause Bird supports.
‘‘If we can help these kids out, I think we can help the whole community,’’ he said.