Big is best for Cowboys squad
Cowboys coach Paul Green is determined to show that power will be just as important as speed at the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines by naming World Cup forwards James Tamou, Tariq Sims and Jason Taumalolo in his squad of 16.
While much of the focus has been on the speedsters out wide and the fancy footwork of the light-stepping halves in the middle of the field, the Cowboys seem set to bash their way through the shortened defensive lines, with Tamou, Sims and Taumalolo the chief destroyers.
Gavin Cooper – who will captain the side in the absence of regular co-captains Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott – and Joel Riethmuller add further size to the Cowboys line-up and Green is excited to see what kind of carnage his big men can create.
"Hopefully hard to handle," Green said when asked what influence Tamou will have. "Athletically he's great and I think with the size, speed and power that he's got I think he'll be a real handful whoever we play against.
"They're both athletic those guys, Tariq and Jason, so I think they'll be a real handful with a bit more open field there."
Unlike many of the sides preparing for the latest addition to the rugby league calendar, the Cowboys do have some first-hand experience at playing Nines football courtesy of Green and assistant coach David Furner.
Both Green and Furner were involved in the Australian team that participated in the Super League Nines in 1996 and 1997 and the head coach hinted that he may offload some of the tactical planning to his experienced offsider.
"We've had a look at some old footage of 'Furns' with the flat-top scoring a couple of tries so we've had a bit of a look at it," Green revealed.
"He wants to bring a few special scrum moves in and things like that so Furns can be the Nines specialist this week.
"It's a bit of an unknown quantity. No one's played it as clubs – the last Nines tournament they had was Australia and [other] countries – so I think part of that (entertaining the crowd) is important.
"They're putting it on as an event over there to obviously get some support for New Zealand rugby league so it's important that we try to play a bit of an attacking style of play.
"I think the NRL is fairly defence focused so this is an opportunity for everybody to get out there with no pressure and throw the ball around."
Despite leaving Thurston, Scott and Brent Tate at home, Green remains confident that the squad he has assembled is capable of going deep into the tournament and heading back to Townsville with a little extra cash in their pockets.
"Luckily I'm under no pressure from the club to win it for the prize money but in saying that there is some big money on offer," Green said.
"I'm happy with the team I've named. It will be competitive so we'll be going over there to put our best foot forward."