Titans to throw stars at Auckland Nines
Superstar Jarryd Hayne will spearhead Gold Coast's assault on the NRL Downer Auckland Nines, providing he gets through pre-season training fully fit and with no lingering injury concerns.
The pool draw for the Auckland Nines was released on Thursday with the Titans drawn to play the Bulldogs, Panthers and Sharks in the preliminary rounds as they look to build on their semi-final appearance this year.
The Titans topped the Piha pool in February thanks to wins over the Raiders and Dragons and are set to unleash plenty of their premium talent along with a host of exciting youngsters in their squad for the 2017 tournament.
Hayne missed the inaugural tournament in 2014 but having joined Shaun Johnson and Johnathan Thurston as ambassadors for the tournament will be one of the major drawcards across the two days at Eden Park from February 4.
The Auckland Nines will also likely serve as the comeback to competitive rugby league for Kane Elgey after more than 12 months sidelined with a knee injury with Henry keen to give the title another good shake.
"It will be a mixture of some of our young guys and some of our older guys," Henry said on the possible make-up of the team.
"Jarryd's really keen to play and being an ambassador with 'JT' and Shaun is great for the game and Johnathan said he is keen to play too.
"If Jarryd is fit and right to go he'll be there and he'll look forward to playing a game where he has got a bit more space to play footy.
"Kane Elgey would be keen to get some footy under his belt after missing last year. Tyrone Roberts, Pat Politoni might put his hand up and a couple of our young guys coming off the back of injuries like Karl Lawton and Nathan Davis.
"It's a great tournament. I know the players look forward to trying to make the squad to get over there. It's well run and pretty exciting and there have been plenty of fans turning up so there's a bit of a carnival affair."
The Titans were knocked out by the Warriors in the semi-finals earlier this year yet walked away with $165,000 in prizemoney, a factor Henry concedes plays a major role in their motivation to go one better and make the final in February.
"We all go over there with the idea of trying to win it and it's very lucrative," Henry said as his players completed a punishing conditioning session at North Burleigh on Thursday afternoon.
"The prizemoney is certainly handy. We achieved a bit of prizemoney last year and with the players getting a cut of that it's an incentive.
"We'd like to make the finals again and hopefully progress a little bit further. Your aim at those tournaments is to have a good time, be injury free and if you can pick up some prizemoney that's a real bonus.
"The Bulldogs, Panthers and the Sharks, that's a good pool, but it really doesn't matter who we're playing.
"I thought Cronulla had a good side [last year] and then Parramatta came through and the Warriors have always been the favourites with the home crowd behind them."