Panthers 'no-names' will be stars
Penrith's Auckland Nines skipper Kevin Kingston says the unknown youngsters in the Panthers squad could well make a name for themselves over the Nines weekend.
Asked about the host of youngsters in the Panthers team Kingston said the tournament was the perfect chance for the club to have a look at how they will handle a step up to something more like NRL intensity.
"I think the great thing about this tournament is it can introduce you to the new wave of future stars and for us as well, we want to see how they go as first grade footy players," Kingston told NRL.com at a fan day in Auckland's city centre.
"By the end [of the weekend] you will know about them; Christian Crichton, he's been pretty good. Josh Jay, Chris Smith, they're all guys that are unknown now but by the end of this tournament you'll know about them."
Heading into his second Nines tournament, Kingston said the level of skill and tactics should be even higher this year now that everyone has an idea of how the format will play out.
"It's just fast and furious really, and you've just got to adapt. I'm pretty sure the skill level and tactics will be at a higher level compared to last year because everyone was still trying to work it out. But this year you've got a year under your belt and some video to watch so you can learn off things like that, and you can learn from the Cowboys who won last year."
That North Queensland victory was built on defence, when they shut down the high-flying Warriors in their semi-final before holding out the Broncos in the final.
"I think going from last year, defence is a pretty big point," Kingston said.
"If you look at last year the Cowboys were just defending tries and then the points come from that. I saw in the semi-final they stopped the Warriors' potent attack then put some points on them."
Of his own short retirement, Kingston said he had known he was going to be making a guest appearance at the Nines since last year – and it had nothing to do with the club's hefty injury toll.
"Yeah they got me back in pretty early but I'm pretty sure this will be my last [appearance]. It wasn't really [due to injuries] – knowing that I was working for the club in the welfare role, Ivan [Cleary] just asked me at the end of last year 'do you still want to play the Nines' and I said 'yeah, I'd love to play if you need me'.
While Kingston was disappointed to finish his final year of NRL due to a knee injury, he has now fully recovered and is looking forward to playing at the weekend.