Will Anthony Minichiello be a 'retired legend' by the time the 2015 Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines rolls around? Copyright: Grant Trouville/NRL Photos Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
Younger brother Mark has quashed suggestions that Anthony Minichiello will take Brad Fittler's place as the legend in the Sydney Roosters squad for the 2015 Auckland Nines, hinting that this year may not necessarily be his brother's last in the NRL.
Fittler stole the show on the opening day of the inaugural tournament last weekend and the efforts of he and Steve Menzies for Manly has led to discussions of each club participating in the tournament with a designated legend.
While Fittler, Mitchell Pearce and Jake Friend were sent to lead a young Roosters team in Auckland, 33-year-old Minichiello was in Wyong finalising preparations for this weekend's World Club Challenge against Wigan at Allianz Stadium.
Although he is only on a one-year deal with the Roosters for 2014, Minichiello said in January that he hasn't ruled out the possibility of going around again in 2015 and brother Mark suggested that he won't need a special exemption to take part in next year's Nines tournament.
"He's still going all right mate," Mark said when asked whether Anthony would need to lean on the 'retired legend' status. "He'll still lead the Roosters this year and you never know what will happen after that."
One of the pre-tournament fancies, the Titans started strongly with a 22-7 win over the Wests Tigers but subsequent defeats at the hands of the Knights and Sharks meant they failed to progress to the quarter-final stage.
Despite having their tournament end prematurely, Minichiello was full of praise for the event and the atmosphere generated by the 89,003 fans who attended Eden Park over the course of the weekend.
"It was a great atmosphere, it was a party atmosphere," he said. "The fans of Auckland really got dressed up and there was music in the background... It was a really fun atmosphere and the platers really got into it and I think it's a great concept leading forward. I hope they continue it."
The Titans finalise their preparations for the start of the Telstra Premiership with a trial against Auckland Nines champions the Cowboys at Toowoomba on Saturday night hoping to rectify some defensive frailties exposed with four less players on the field.
"Defensively you can take a lot out of it," said Minichiello, who needs just 14 appearances to reach the 250-game milestone in 2014. "That doesn't change too much. You've still got to make your one-on-one tackles and we were pretty poor in that area in the last couple of games.
"I thought defensively we probably need to improve a fair bit from what we showed out in the Nines.
"We've made that one of our main focuses this year, to improve our defence. There's no question that the best defensive sides win the competition so that's where we need to be. We need to be up among the top two defensive teams in the comp if we want to win the comp."