Fast-paced action with rules that encourage attacking play, plenty of open space and some of the finest young talent the NRL has to offer. What's not to love about the Downer NRL Auckland Nines? While the format is of course very different a standard NRL Telstra Premiership fixture, there's still plenty we can glean from the stats that come from the nine-aside tournament. Here are the key numbers and statistics that defined the 2016 Downer NRL Auckland Nines.
Corey Norman was involved in everything for eventual champions Parramatta, deservedly taking out tournament MVP honours. The Eels playmaker handled the ball 67 times, had 10 try assists (double the next-best for this stat, Ash Taylor and Blake Green), 10 line-break assists, 10 tackle breaks, 234 metres from 27 runs, four offloads, a line break and a try of his own from six starts. Eels fans will be beside themselves thinking of the damage both Norman and new halves partner Kieran Foran could do in 2016.
Perhaps surprisingly, not one player broke the 50-tackle barrier across all games for the weekend. Despite their side not making the final, Melbourne duo Dale Finucane (41) and Tohu Harris (36) led the way for tackles made, while Junior Paulo (31), Daniel Mortimer (31) and Tepai Moeroa (29) were also busy.
There were frantic scenes at the end of the Raiders-Sharks pool game, which Canberra took out to send last year's finalists packing while the Green Machine progressed to the quarter-finals on for-and-against. Think that was close enough? The Raiders went through on one point differential. Despite trailing 18-6, the tournament could have ended very differently had the Sharks kicked a late field goal.
Key to the Titans' run to the semi-finals was blockbusting forward Agnatius Passi. One of Gold Coast's quiet achievers in 2015, the former Warrior flourished back in Auckland. Paasi ran for 326 metres (the second-highest of any player at the tournament), scored three tries, assisted two, produced six offloads, as many tackle breaks, three line breaks, and a line-break assist in five games. For his efforts, 'Iggy' was named in the team of the tournament alongside teammate Chris McQueen. Not to be outdone, fellow Titans forward Greg Bird forced four mistakes, the most of any player at the tournament, showing he still has plenty to offer a largely young Gold Coast group.
Since taking his game to new heights in 2015, there was massive interest surrounding Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's first hit-out in Warriors colours. He didn't set the tournament alight, but the numbers don't make for terrible reading either. 287 run metres, eight tackle breaks, four line-break assists, four try assists and a try in six games wasn't bad from a man also hampered by a calf complaint late in the tournament.
Undoubtedly, the Nines are all about tries. The more spectacular the better. But for one Eels rookie, it was a case of the more the better. Bevan French made league fans take notice with a tournament-high eight-try haul. Fellow Parramatta winger Semi Radradra had six (as well as a lazy tournament-high 457 run metres). Warriors ace Solomone Kata bagged five, while Euan Aitken, Latrell Mitchell, Gideon Gela-Mosby, Richard Kennar, Jake Mamo, and Gavin Cooper had four each.