Manly legend Steve Menzies will join Sydney Roosters great Brad Fittler in a return to rugby league at this weekend’s NRL Auckland Nines.
The involvement of Fittler, 42, in the Eden Park event was confirmed by the NRL last month and Menzies, 40, will be unveiled as part of the Sea Eagles’ 16-man squad at a promotion on Tuesday.
But fears the short-form tournament will be a haven for returning veterans and lesser-name NRL players have been allayed with the majority of teams naming strong sides for the inaugural event.
Kangaroos prop Andrew Fifita was added to a Cronulla roster containing captain Paul Gallen, Todd Carney and Wade Graham on Monday, after initially being ruled out due to eye surgery.
Captain Robbie Farah will spearhead the Wests Tigers’ Nines campaign with Aaron Woods, Curtis Sironen, David Nofoaluma, Pat Richards, Adam Blair, Marika Koroibete and young gun Mitchell Moses also among those named.
One of the few props likely to play in the tournament, Woods said he didn’t know what to expect.
“I’m looking forward to it but not quite sure what will happen,” he said.
“I’ll just be looking to hold up the middle and stop the little blokes from darting their way through.
“It’s going to be a challenge but it is also going to be a lot of fun.”
Australian winger Brett Morris was named in St George Illawarra’s line-up alongside NSW stars Josh Dugan and Trent Merrin and Kiwi representative Jason Nightingale.
Morris said he was humbled to be named skipper in the absence of Ben Creagh, whose wife recently gave birth.
“It’s really exciting. This is a club I’m proud to play for and it’s a huge honour to be made captain,” Morris told the Dragons’ website.
“It’s going to be a great tournament. It’s a whole new concept and there will be a whole new set of tactics.
“There will be a bit more space out there which should give us smaller blokes a chance to show what we can do with the ball.
“Hopefully the fans will love it.”
However, none of Melbourne’s big three of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater will play.
The World Cup-winning Kangaroo trio were all left out of coach Craig Bellamy’s squad.
NSW back-rower Ryan Hoffman will captain the Storm side, with stars Will Chambers, Justin O’Neill, Kevin Proctor, Jesse Bromwich (emergency 17th man) also included alongside Canterbury recruit Joel Romelo.
Winger Matt Duffie has been included after a successful comeback from knee and shoulder injury in the under-strength Storm’s 20-12 loss to Canberra on Saturday.
Tohu Harris will play his first official game since being bumped out of New Zealand’s World Cup squad by Sonny Bill Williams.
The Nines take place at Eden Park on Saturday and Sunday.