Greg Bird: Auckland Nines Launch, Sydney, Thursday 12th December 2013. Photo: Renee McKay

Bird named in strong team for Nines

iSelect Gold Coast Titans Co-Captain Greg Bird has been named in a near full-strength 16-man squad to contest this weekend’s inaugural Dick Smith Auckland Nines at Eden Park.

iSelect Titans Coach John Cartwright today named senior players Bird, Luke Bailey, William Zillman, Ashley Harrison and David Taylor to play their first matches of 2014 after they were rested from the club’s 36-18 trial match win over the New Zealand Warriors at North Harbour Stadium yesterday.

The squad also features new recruits Brad Tighe, Paul Carter, Kalifa Faifai Loa, Maurice Blair and Siuatonga Likiliki, who all impressed on debut for the club in yesterday’s trial match victory.

Flying wingers Kevin Gordon and David Mead have also been included while skillful halfback Albert Kelly will assume the chief playmaking duties in the absence of Aidan Sezer, who was ruled out of contention as a precautionary measure due to hamstring tightness.

Prop Ryan James was also today ruled out after suffering a shoulder injury in the win over the Warriors, while Co-Captain Nate Myles is the other notable absentee as he makes his return following off-season groin surgery.

iSelect Titans Coach John Cartwright said the club was intent on making its presence felt at the inaugural nine-a-side tournament and had picked the best available team accordingly.

“Our preparation has been good, we’ve come over here with a mission to do as well as we can in it and we’re definitely not treating it as a circus,’’ said Cartwright.

“We’ve picked out best side and we want to go as deep into it as we possibly can.

“We got through the trial well yesterday and we’ve picked what we think is our best available team.

“We used that trial yesterday to give a few guys a bit of a run and the Nines will be a mix of half the guys that played and half that didn’t, so they all would have had a taste of football by the end of the weekend.’’

iSelect Titans squad for Dick Smith Auckland Nines
Eden Park
February 15-16

1 William Zillman
2 Brad Tighe
3 David Mead
4 Kevin Gordon
5 Albert Kelly
6 Greg Bird
7 Ashley Harrison
8 Anthony Don
9 Paul Carter
10 Kalifa Faifai Loa
11 Brad Takairangi
12 Mark Minichiello
13 Maurice Blair
14 Luke Bailey
15 Siuatonga Likiliki
16 David Taylor