Sharks backrower Wade Graham has been installed as Sharks Captain for the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines with Luke Lewis withdrawing from the squad with a minor injury concern.
While Lewis will be a loss for the Sharks, Graham has experience as team captain, deputising for regular skipper Paul Gallen at various times during 2014, with his inclusion giving the Sharks a somewhat different look for the Nines.
A former half-back, Graham’s ball playing ability is sure to be an asset in the alternative format tournament.
As for Lewis, as coach Shane Flanagan explained, his withdrawal is no cause for concern for Sharks fans, with the experienced forward likely to be fit and ready to go for the teams trial match against Manly the following weekend.
“Luke has a minor injury problem, he hasn’t run since late last week and he just won’t be right for the Nines,” Flanagan said. “The injury isn’t a serious one and we certainly expect him to be right to play Manly in our first trial the following week.”
Also out of the Sharks 18-man squad for the Nines is prop Sam Tagataese, his place to be taken by newcomer Saulala Houma.
“Taga has a slight groin strain and while it settled reasonably well over the weekend, he won’t be ready for the Nines either and Saul will come in,” Flanagan said. “Like Lewy, Taga should be good to go for the Manly trial as well.”
The two late team changes are something of a blow, however the Sharks are still hopeful of a successful outing in New Zealand, with their young squad keen to impress.
In addition to Houma, a man mountain who will play his first official games in Sharks colours, the likes of Jack Bird, Valentine Holmes, Sami Sauiluma and Fa’amanu Brown will be out to press their claims for positions in the NRL team for round one on March 8.
Last year at this same event Brown and Holmes were most impressive, with the pair emerging from the Nines weekend as potential NRL players before going on to debut in the top grade later in the season.
The Sharks open their Nines tournament with a match against the Bulldogs, before playing the Broncos and Roosters in the round robin section of the event.
The Sharks team for the Auckland Nines
Wade Graham ©
SHARKS LOCKER ROOM LAUNCH
In response to our Members Survey and Fan Forums, Saturday, January 31, the opening day of the Auckland Nines, marks the official opening of the new, long awaited Sharks Sports Bar (packed with Sharks memorabilia).
We are excited to extend an invitation to all Sharks fans to join us at the Locker Room Launch and watch our Sharks do battle at the Auckland 9’s. From 12 midday, this Saturday, with the Sharks first match at 12.35pm. Sharkies Leagues Club opens at 10.00am.
The Looker Room will also show the Channel 9 Footy Show fight night featuring Paul Gallen and Sonny Bill Williams in action.