The Aquis Titans will send a young, and very much a new look, team to compete at the Auckland Nines during the first weekend of February.
The 18-man squad, subject to fitness tests early next week, contains eight players new to last year’s squad that played in the NRL and five players who were playing Holden Cup in 2015.
Wearing the Titans jersey for the first time are Chris McQueen, Tyrone Roberts, Ash Taylor and Nathan Davis while others who were not in Neil Henry’s squad in 2015 are triallist Shannon Walker, plus members of last year’s Gold Training under-20s team Shane Wright, Brian Kelly and Greg Leleisiuao (pictured).
That leaves three teenagers in Leleisiaou (18), Kelly and Wright (both 19) and 20-year-olds Taylor and Davis, who last season played under-20s for Parramatta.
“We have picked a team that we feel is suited to Nines and there is a good mix of youth and experience,” said coach Neil Henry.
“Shane, Greg and Brian, who are still eligible for under-20s, have trained well with the NRL squad during the pre-season and this is a well-earned reward for them.
“Shannon Walker is very quick and has had a lot of experience with the Australian Rugby Sevens and is keen to do well in Auckland and the trials as he’s trialling for a contract. He’ll be exciting to watch.
“It’s great to see Will Zillman has recovered from the back injury that forced him out from round 10 last year while Matt Srama has recovered well from a shoulder operation and has worked really hard.
“When you add Greg Bird, Chris McQueen, David Mead, Ryan James, Tyrone Roberts and Daniel Mortimer, there’s plenty of experience too but generally it’s a young side with a lot of exciting new faces.”
The youngest player, Leleisiaou, is a strongly built outside back while Wright, who is in the QAS Queensland under-20s Emerging Squad, is a back-rower. Winger/centre Kelly scored four tries for NSW in the under-20s Origin clash last year while Taylor was the 2015 Holden Cup player of the year.
TITANS’ AUCKLAND NINES SQUAD: