Connor Watson was named the MVP of the 2017 Downer NRL Auckland Nines.

History repeats on the biggest stage

Sunday's Downer Auckland Nines decider prompted fans of the Roosters and Panthers to draw comparisons to the NRL grand final of 2003 that was won by the mountain men in a torrid tussle in appalling conditions. 

However, there was a far more recent spectacle that was ignored by most people that ultimately proved relevant.  

For the first time in Nines history, the decider featured the two Holden Cup grand-finalists from the previous season, with the Tricolours holding on to win 10-8 after Penrith's Darren Nicholls missed a conversion at the death.  

Just like Sunday's result in Auckland, the Tricolours proved too strong in the 2016 NYC decider as they overturned a 22-point half-time deficit to shock the minor premiers.

And just like Sunday's thrilling contest, there was plenty of late drama at ANZ Stadium four months ago as Panthers fullback Dylan Edwards hooked a tricky 76th-minute penalty goal attempt that would have sent the game to extra-time. 

The two grand final squads on Sunday comprised plenty of players from last year's epic NYC encounter, and perhaps a rivalry is on the cards given recent results. 

Joseph Manu, Bernard Lewis, Paul Momirowski and Victor Radley were all part of the Roosters' premiership-winning side last season, while Connor Watson was promoted to the NRL squad after scoring six tries from four matches in the NYC. 

Dylan Edwards, Kaide Ellis, Corey Waddell and Tyrone May all featured in Penrith's 2016 grand final side, while Nathan Cleary was one of the Holden Cup's brightest stars before he forced his way into first grade. 

Both squads were laden with other players who made a name for themselves in the Holden Cup with stars such as Latrell Mitchell, Johnny Tuivasa-Sheck, Oliver Clark and Christian Crichton featuring in Auckland. 

 

 
Aside from the game itself, one of the most pleasing aspects to come from Sunday's spectacle was the performance of youngsters most people hadn't heard of before the tournament.  

Panthers Clark, Edwards and May as well as Rooster Joseph Manu were all part of last year's Holden Cup Team of the Tournament, and the emerging talent wasn't restricted to the top two teams with several members of the Nines Team of the Tournament hailing from the NYC, with Kalyn Ponga, Gideon Gela-Mosby, Brodie Croft and Connor Watson also making the cut.

Cowboys pairing Ponga and Gela-Mosby were at their thrilling best at the Nines after being recognised in 2016 among the Holden Cup's crème de la crème. 

Storm young gun Croft scored nine tries and had four try assists in his 11 NYC appearances last season before he was promoted to the Intrust Super Cup. Now he's in line to get a shot in first grade in the not too distant future. 

And how can we go past the tournament MVP, Connor Watson? The talented Rooster told NRL.com on the eve of the tournament that he'd use the Nines to show off his utility value. It's fair to say he has sent coach Trent Robinson a strong statement that will at the very least earn him a spot on the bench for Round 1. 

If the weekend has taught us anything it's that the tournament doesn't just rely on the game's biggest stars to produce an entertaining product. The Nines is about more than that, and for these youngsters the weekend has been the springboard needed to put their names in the spotlight.