Broncos to unveil new-look Nines squad
Injuries, representative commitments and a revamped roster will see the Brisbane Broncos take a vastly different squad to the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines on January 31.
The inaugural runners-up to the Cowboys, the Broncos will unveil coach Wayne Bennett's first Broncos squad in seven years on Friday afternoon with new recruits and emerging youngsters expected to dominate the 18-man squad.
With Four Nations representatives Corey Parker, Sam Thaiday, Josh McGuire, Ben Hunt and Daniel Vidot having only just returned to training and Matt Gillett, Jack Reed, Dale Copley, Jarrod Wallace, David Stagg and Corey Oates all scheduled to play the club's final trial game after undergoing shoulder reconstructions in the off-season, plenty of new faces will get a chance to impress.
Add in the fact that Ben Barba, Josh Hoffman, Martin Kennedy and Stewart Mills are all now playing elsewhere and it will be a much different-looking team to that which registered wins over the Bulldogs, Eels, Knights and Sharks on their way to the final last year.
Kiwi international Alex Glenn is set to line up again for the Broncos in Auckland and said that those who will experience the tournament for the first time are excited about what lies ahead.
"Obviously our team will be very young, there's only a couple who played last year, so they were all asking us what happens out there and it was pretty much go out there, play footy and enjoy it. That's all the advice we could give," Glenn told NRL.com.
"To see the Auckland crowd get into the vibe, they were all dressing up and having a great time and they were supportive of every team that went out there. The stadium was huge and it was fully packed and the weather turned it on and it was one of the best weekends I've had playing football.
"It didn't take a lot to sell it to the boys, they were all pretty eager to get there and from what we've told them they seem excited; we can't wait to get over there."
New recruits James Gavet (Wests Tigers) and Mitchell Garbutt (Storm) both appeared last year at the Nines for their previous teams and it will be interesting to see whether Bennett lets thrill-a-minute Anthony Milford loose after he was left out of Canberra's squad for the 2014 tournament.
Pint-sized half/fullback Kodi Nikorima was one of Brisbane's stand-outs last year and Glenn believes his combination with younger brother Jayden could be a valuable weapon in the Broncos' arsenal.
"Definitely the Nikorima brothers, Kodi and Jayden," Glenn said when asked of Brisbane's potential trump cards. "Kodi played last year and because he's so fast – they're both super quick and light on their feet – with all that space they've got speed to burn out there.
"I know they'll go great for us and also Greggy Eden, he's got some speed and strength... All those outside backs are going to have a field day. We don't know how we're going to play but it's going to be pretty much feed the fast boys and see what they can do.
"Joe Ofahengaue didn't get a game [last year] so he's eager to strap the boots on. He already asked the coach if everyone's going to get a run this time so he's very eager.
"Obviously he was there last time and in the mix of it so he's just willing to be a part of it all. He's a fit person for 112 kilos so it's going to be interesting the impact he brings to our team."
The Broncos are drawn in the Piha Pool along with the Roosters, Bulldogs and Sharks, with their tournament opening with games against the Roosters and Sharks on Saturday and then the Bulldogs on Sunday as the last game before the finals.