Mini among Cup stars to skip Nines
Sydney Roosters captain Anthony Minichiello has revealed he will be among a host of Roosters World Cup players to miss next month's Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines tournament and hinted 2014 could be his last season in the NRL.
Minichiello said himself and "most of the guys that played in the World Cup" would instead play in the club's trial match against Newcastle in Wyong.
"The guys that didn't play [in the World Cup] and some of the guys that did will play the Nines," Minichiello told reporters following the Roosters' announcement of a new three-year deal with Peugeot Automobiles Australia as one of the club's new major partners.
The possible return to the playing field of retired club legend Brad Fittler could however add some interest to the tournament, despite plenty of Roosters stars sitting out.
"It's exciting; it's created a lot of interest around it, that's a good thing for the tournament," Minichiello said.
"He's mad I think, he's nearly 42 and he's coming back to play. He's been training with us, he's looking pretty good still. He was always a gifted athlete."
The 33-year-old veteran of 275 NRL games, 11 Origins and 25 Tests for Australia and Italy would not confirm that 2014 would be his last season, despite widespread speculation it will be his swansong.
"I'm not going to say it's my last completely, I'll head into the season and weigh things up when I feel it's appropriate," he said.
"It's hard to say [when I'll decide], I'll get into the season and just see how we're going as a club. The main thing is the body and how it's feeling and how the mind's feeling I suppose."
The former NSW and Australia fullback was in less than vintage form in 2013, notching just six tries, eight line breaks and three try assists in his 24 games, averaging 73 running metres per game as young stars Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Daniel Tupou ran amok on the flanks.
Tuivasa-Sheck has been earmarked as Minichiello's natural successor as the Tricolours custodian, and Minichiello was philosophical around when that move may occur.
"It doesn't worry me [if I get moved to the wing], whatever the coach thinks is best for the team I'm happy to do. Whatever the boss wants mate!" he laughed.
The Roosters play in the World Club Challenge against UK Super League champions Wigan at their home ground Allianz Stadium on Saturday February 22, and Minichiello said the clash would be a higher intensity game than the trials, giving the Roosters an ideal lead in to the season.
"I think it will be good because we've got the Nines and a smaller trial up at Wyong playing Newcastle," he said.
"This game against Wigan playing the World Club Challenge will be a high intensity game which will lead us into the season. You need a good trial going into the season – I'm not saying this is a trial, it's a game that you want to win and it's a good preparation for us."
The match will be the first World Club Challenge played in Australia since Wigan took on Brisbane in 1994, and playing hosts could advantage the Roosters, Minichiello said.
Australian teams won the fixture just once between Melbourne's win in 2000 and Manly's win in 2009 – and it was a match in which Minichiello played, the Roosters triumphing 38-0 over St Helens in 2003.
"[Wigan are] a great club with great history, and they're winners. It's the first time in about  years it's been out in Australia and it's at our home ground so we're looking forward to a good performance there," he said.
"I suppose [playing it in Australia] is an advantage for us because they're not so used to the heat, but if they come out two weeks before to acclimatise... it's going to be a tough game no matter what conditions we're playing in. They're a top class team so we're looking forward to that game."