Roosters Nines captain Braith Anasta says he's no chance of replicating predecessor Brad Fittler's memorable runaway try at the inaugural tournament but hopes he can one-up the club legend by staying fit into the second day of the Downer NRL Auckland Nines.
Fittler provided one of the most memorable Nines moments by coming out of retirement to lace on the boots before streaking away for an intercept try two years ago, but tore a calf muscle in the process and had to sit out the rest of the weekend.
Anasta has joined fellow ex-NRL players Matt Bowen (Cowboys) and Jason Croker (Raiders) in returning to the footy field this year and told NRL.com that Fittler's heroics had set the bar unattainably high.
"We'll find out!" Anasta laughed when asked if his body was up to the rigours of a frantic Nines weekend.
"The body's been good, I feel fit but I'm not at NRL level. I'm looking forward to it. The big thing is the recovery and how I pull up after the games and if I'm right for Sunday," he said.
Recalling Fittler's efforts two years prior, Anasta said he wouldn't be looking to replicate those sorts of individual heroics.
"He actually had a couple of serious injuries [last year] – he scored that intercept try and I think that's how he hurt himself. He set the bar really high Freddie but he didn't make it to Sunday," Anasta laughed.
"I've just got to try and make it to Sunday.
"I used to like an intercept but I wouldn't make it these days. If I catch an intercept I'll be looking to offload it. I'm no chance. Freddie's a freak and he's put the pressure on me."
What fewer people remember about Fittler's efforts two years ago was his willingness to throw himself in front of far bigger and younger forwards, notably stopping Eels wrecking ball Fuifui Moimoi twice.
Anasta said it didn't dawn on him until after he'd signed up that he'd have to be willing to tackle some of the most formidable forwards in the game today, such as Eels prop Junior Paulo and Rabbitohs giant Tom Burgess.
"Yeah I think Tom's playing, I didn't like reading that!" Anasta laughed.
"All my mates were saying 'you know you've got to tackle these big guys' – I hadn't thought about it! I'll put my body on the line and go as hard as I can but I'm not looking forward to tackling those big boys, especially the ones with footwork. That's just part of the game and I'll probably be pretty sore afterwards but you've just got to do it."
The Roosters have named a relatively inexperienced Nines squad and Anasta said there was no shortage of talent coming through the ranks at Bondi.
"There's a few guys. [Fullback] Latrell Mitchell is the obvious one, he's got big raps on him, a lot of people think he can take over from Tuivasa-Sheck in the fullback role. He's probably a little bit away from that but I've coached him in the 20s and he's a great player, I think the Nines will suit him.
"Joey Manu is definitely one to watch, he's from New Zealand, really exciting player. Connor Watson's a good young player as well, he's in the halves. He may be called upon this year depending on what happens with Pearcey but he might be called upon at some stage. He's a really good young player who's quick and got all the attributes.
"Joe [Burgess] as well, he's had a good pre-season since Christmas, he's been training hard and he's an exciting as well. We've got a lot of players people probably wouldn't recognise but it's a really exciting squad as well."
The Roosters are in Waiheke Pool with the Eels, Storm and defending Nines champions the Rabbitohs.