NINES NOT EASY: Titans have a chance, albeit a slim one
WHILE the Downer NRL Auckland Nines provides an exhilarating thrill ride of rugby league action and a platform to promote the future faces of the game, it is so far removed from the 13-man code that you can predict the weather easier than the Nines victor.
While some clubs have utilised the Nines to get a look at their fringe rosters, others have stacked their sides with superstars.
The major inclusion of the best player in the game, Johnathan Thurston, obviously gives the Cowboys an early leg up against the competition but Titans' code-hopping superstar Jarryd Hayne will be out to negate the four-time Dally M medallist.
Hayne leads what appears to be a stacked Titans line-up with local hero Anthony Don, Ryan James and a returning Kane Elgey who will be keen to cement a halves spot opposite Ash Taylor.
Meanwhile, Thurston will be joined by a similar all-star cast including Gavin Cooper, Jason Taumalolo and Michael Morgan all past Premiership winners.
With the two best squads across the Nines landscape, it seems an easy suggestion that the Cowboys and Titans will be the likely make-up of the tournament final.
While the Cowboys have the recent finals experience and the obvious pedigree advantage, I still think the Titans have the ability to cause an upset if the two sides do make the final with nine-a-side action suiting their fast-paced outfit.
Jarryd Hayne has had his first full pre-season since 2014 so expect him to lift.