Fittler and Menzies thrive at Nines
Putting paid to suggestions their participation made a mockery of the tournament, retired NRL players Brad Fittler and Steve Menzies performed admirably on the opening day of the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines.
While Fittler's 70-metre intercept try stole the show, the 42-year-old didn't look at all out of place, putting his body on the line tackling Eels battering ram Fuifui Moimoi and later in the day cleaning up a dangerous Ben Barba as he threatened to run into space.
The one-on-one hit on Barba was solid but penalised for being too high, much to Fittler's bemusement.
"Can you believe that was a penalty?" he exclaimed to reporters after the game.
"I'm going to have a word to them later, the refs. What chance did I have? But I knew I had support on my inside so it might have looked like a great tackle but it wasn't that tough."
Fittler also produced some slick passes and was one of the best on field in the Roosters' second up 14-7 win over Brisbane.
Fittler said the body was holding up ok, aside from a sore hip that he hinted may have been the result of one of his tackles on Moimoi.
"I felt better running out than I do walking back in, don't worry!" he laughed.
He also revealed the intercept was far from a fluke - and possibly a direct result of an unwillingness to tackle Sonny Bill Williams at training.
"They defend a bit different now. At training I was taking a lot of intercepts because I didn't want to tackle Sonny," he said.
"They all knew I was going to take an intercept it was a matter of when."
He also had a friendly dig at the man unfortunate enough to throw the intercept pass, Broncos forward David Stagg.
"David Stagg mate, what's he ball-playing for anyway?" Fittler laughed. "I knew I was going to pick someone off, I left it to 'Staggy'."
Forty-year-old Menzies also didn't look out of place in getting through a fair bit of tackling, and was very welcoming of the Nines concept.
"It was good fun and to play in front of a crowd like this was pretty amazing," Menzies said.
"I think it's a good concept, hopefully it takes off. It's got the right mix, enough tries but defence is there and you can definitely defend a couple of sets of six."
Both Fittler and Menzies said the players would get better at it in future years once they'd had a chance to practice it more and familiarise themselves with the style of play.
"I think it's fantastic, I think it's a great game," Fittler said.
"As teams practice a bit more they'll perfect it but the same things that win you NRL games win these games. As a concept, I can't give it a big enough rap."
He added that he'd consider playing again next year if he was fit but added: "I don't know if I'm locked in for tomorrow yet, I'm a bit dusty and I've got a bit of a hip thing.
"But it's awesome, I think every ex player should strive to come back and play a game."