Waiheke Pool: Day 1 wrap
Elgey's return a success for undefeated Titans
Jack Bird kicked off the 2017 NRL season and waiting underneath it was an admittedly nervous Kane Elgey.
The Titans half had not played a senior game of any kind since Round 26, 2015 but within a couple of minutes of the contest displayed the type of talent that made him a breakout star two years ago.
He had the honour of scoring the first try of the tournament and created space later with a deft pass for Chris McQueen but said simply getting through in one piece was the greatest confidence boost of all.
"Yeah I actually was [nervous], I'm not going to lie to you but it was good and the nerves were gone after the first couple of minutes," Elgey said.
"I sort of told myself before I went out there that I just had to do something. A tackle, a run and I was lucky enough to get a try.
"For me, it's a good chance to build combinations with the players and work on my own game.
"It's cool playing with Jarryd [Hayne]. It was my first game with him so hopefully there's more to come."
And was their downward pressure on the try that kick-started the Titans' tournament?
"Just. I missed it the first time," he admitted.
As well as marking a personal milestone Elgey's return to the team bodes well for the season ahead according to Chris McQueen.
"It's great to see Kane running around again and see him out there with a smile on his face, that's a good thing for the Titans," said McQueen.
"He's got some nice deception, he's quick with his feet and his show and go is good so he will bring a lot to the team."
With a quarter-final berth wrapped up coach Neil Henry has the option to rest his superstar fullback Jarryd Hayne against the Panthers and save him for the knockout stages.
The only injury concern from day one was an ankle sprain to youngster AJ Brimson but it is not thought to be serious.
Tamou leads young Panthers into finals
He scored one of the tries of day one… and then backed it up with another even better.
James Tamou's sprinting, jinking, stepping 45-metre effort may not have been what he was recruited for by the Panthers but it had his young teammates in awe as they secured a quarter-final berth with wins over the Sharks and Bulldogs.
Looking lean, fit and fast, Tamou ripped the Bulldogs apart in his side's opening game against the Bulldogs and then let his much younger squad members account for the Sharks 16-14.
Tyrone May produced some very classy touches against the Sharks – including a gorgeous short ball for Jed Cartwright to score – but said Tamou's exploits had the Panthers players in raptures.
"We didn't really expect him to rip out some goosesteps and right foots but it's good to see," May said.
"He showed a bit of toe too. Bit scary to see what he can do in the 13 [man game]."
It's not just on the field that Tamou is leading the way with the Test and Origin prop growing into his leadership role at Penrith as the pre-season has gone on.
"When he first came in he was a bit quiet but said hello to everyone," said May, another product of Penrith's junior nursery.
"As the weeks have gone on he's taken it upon himself to give advice or if you ask him something he'll do anything for you.
"I reckon he's one of the top blokes not only in our team but in the NRL. His attitude to the game is phenomenal."
Penrith's young squad has defied any criticism to wrap up a finals berth and May says their youthful energy is key to their success thus far.
"We just come over here all the young boys and us young guys getting a go in the Nines were enthusiastic and just trying to get out there and out-enthuse teams," he said.
Cherrington's claim for Sharks No.9 jersey
Sharks No.9 Manaia Cherrington doesn't believe he has the inside running for the hooking position for the defending premiers despite showing plenty of spark on day one of the Nines.
With limited opportunities with the ball against the Titans in their opening game Cherrington was still able to display his impressive speed around the ruck and looks the most likely option to replace the retired Michael Ennis as Cronulla's roster currently stands.
He impressed further with two tries in the 16-14 loss to the Panthers but the former Wests Tiger believes he has much more to prove before the team is announced to meet the Broncos on March 2.
"I don't think like that," Cherrington said when asked if it was his position to lose. "It's all early days, we've still got to get through the trials and get through this tournament.
"I've had a pretty strong pre-season but it's totally not up to me, it's up to 'Flanno' (Sharks coach Shane Flanagan) and the coaching staff to try and pick a team."
Kasiano coy about dramatic weight loss
Happy wife, happy coach.
That's Sam Kasiano's new motto after the Bulldog behemoth unveiled a positively svelte figure at the Nines on Saturday.
Although the Bulldogs were defeated in both of their games and won't figure in the finals for the fourth consecutive year, there were some eye-catching moments from young monsters such as Francis Tualau, D'Rhys Miller and Marcelo Montoya while half Matt Frawley also showed some enterprise in attack.
Almost unrecognisable with a virtually clean-shaven face and trim figure, Kasiano married long-time partner Sandra Samau over the off-season but was coy on how much weight he had actually shed prior to tying the knot.
"Enough bro. I don't kiss and tell man," Kasiano said.
"Enough. She's happy, Des is happy, that's all that matters."
Only once last year did Kasiano play more than 40 minutes in the 23 games that he played and is hopeful that his significantly lighter frame will allow him to play a greater role for the Bulldogs in 2017.
"That's the plan, try and get more minutes but try and keep my strength and power."
With two young children and another on the way, life for the taut and trim Kasiano is pretty terrific.