Nines alive for old 'Bull' Bailey
He would have been a short-priced favourite to be the oldest player at the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines when the tournament was announced back in October but instead evergreen Titans prop Luke Bailey will be a veritable spring chicken.
Bailey, who turned 34 on January 5, has been named in the strongest possible Titans squad who are missing only Nate Myles, Aidan Sezer and Ryan James due to injury.
New recruits Brad Tighe, Kalifa Faifai Loa, Paul Carter, Maurice Blair and Siuatonga Likiliki are all there alongside excitement machines in Albert Kelly, Kevin Gordon, David Mead and Dave Taylor and veterans in Bailey, Ashley Harrison, Greg Bird and Mark Minichiello in a sure sign that the Titans hold serious ambitions of winning.
The second-oldest player in the NRL in season 2014, the inclusion of Fuifui Moimoi in the Eels squad and the inclusions of rugby league legends Brad Fittler and Steve Menzies in the Roosters and Sea Eagles squads respectively means Bailey can steer well clear of the senior citizens podium for at least one weekend.
Having defeated the Warriors 36-18 in a trial game in Auckland on Sunday, Gold Coast coach John Cartwright left no doubt that his side has their eyes on a sizeable chunk of the $2.6 million in prize money.
"We certainly haven't come over here to treat it as anything other than wanting to win it. We got through the trial yesterday and we've picked what we think is our best available team," Cartwright told Titans TV.
"Our preparation has been good, we've come over here with a mission to do as well as we can in it. We're definitely not treating it like a circus, we've picked our best side and we want to go as deep into it as we possibly can."
Sezer was a late withdrawal from the team that played the Warriors on Sunday while Ryan James was forced from the field after just 15 minutes with a shoulder injury. While the news on James's shoulder injury is positive, Cartwright said he wasn't prepared to risk either less than a month before the start of the competition proper.
"It's not long before we're into the Nines so we're just not going to take any risks with players that are not quite 100 per cent," Cartwright said.
"Our main focus is still getting ready for the Sharks [in round 1] so that will mean having the best side we can for the [trial game against the] Cowboys so they get some game time."
William Zillman, Brad Tighe, David Mead, Kevin Gordon, Albert Kelly, Greg Bird, Ashley Harrison, Anthony Don, Paul Carter, Kalifa Faifai Loa, Brad Takairangi, Mark Minichiello, Maurice Blair, Luke Bailey, Siuatonga Likiliki, David Taylor.