Dragons well placed for great unknown

RUGBY LEAGUE

There's $2.25 million on offer at the Auckland Nines yet players and coaches remain stumped at the best tactics to adopt in the two-day extravaganza.

All 16 clubs congregated at the official tournament breakfast before they attended a civic reception yesterday and will only get a feel for the the format after it begins.

"No-one knows what to expect and I think that's what is exciting about it," St George Illawarra skipper Brett Morris said.

"All the fans are coming with an open mind. They're going to see some thrilling football hopefully."

Perhaps the Dragons, who have flown a strong squad across the Tasman in search of a slice of the huge riches on offer, may be best suited by the time their opening game rolls around.

The Red V is slated to take on the Rabbitohs in the last of the round-one matches as they sit back and watch 14 other sides attempt to solve the Nines riddle.

"To play the last game of the first round will be an advantage for us for sure," Dragons assistant coach Paul McGregor said.

"We'll get here nice and early and have a look at a few things about the format, like how they use the interchange which we're not sure of at the moment.

"Will there be two men in the tackle or three? Will there be one marker or two markers? All that sort of stuff we'll be having a look at before we come down with our final tactics."

Added Morris: "We're lucky enough we get to watch a few games before it. All that space out there is going to be good for us smaller and faster guys.

"Hopefully we can run rings around those big fellas that bash us around during the year."

Representative trio Morris, Josh Dugan and Jason Nightingale will form a strong nucleus for the Dragons.

Dugan remains a popular pick to score the most tries in the tournament, sharing top billing with Bronco Ben Barba and Warrior Konrad Hurrell.

Dragons back-rower Tyson Frizell, who Morris tipped to have a huge impact on the tournament, said the Dragons hadn't dedicated too much specialised training.

"Everyone has done a little bit but not too much," he said.

"I think we're in the same boat as everyone else. It's a new thing, so we're just going to have a bit of fun with it."

The Dragons are also grouped with the Panthers and Storm.

The top two teams from each pool advance to tomorrow's quarter-finals.

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