The Sharks made an outstanding run at the NRL Nines, eventually going down to Souths in golden point extra time in the championship deciding match.
It was a heartbreaking loss in the final, however once the dust had settled the Sharks were able to look back at their performances over the course of the weekend with a great deal of pride.
Their passion and commitment was first class, with the defensive effort in the final against a Bunnies team who dominated possession, earning widespread pride.
While the performance and the results achieved were through a collaborative team effort, the Sharks did have some standout players on the weekend.
If people didn’t know about youngsters Jack Bird, Valentine Holmes and Sami Sauiluma before the Nines, they certainly know about them now, while seasoned first graders Matt Prior and Tinirau Arona were a tower of strength in showing they are fit and firing ahead of the start of the season proper in just over a month.
But as good as those players were during the Nines tournament, three of their teammates were justifiably recognised with selection in the NRL Auckland Nines Team of the Tournament.
Chris Heighington was the glue that kept the Sharks together, with his one-on-one defence and support play a feature, while his try in the quarter final against the Warriors went a long way towards helping the Sharks overcome the local favourites and move on in the competition.
Wade Graham was another to excel, his experience as a former half invaluable as his ball playing ability on the edge of the field put teammates into space and instigated many an attacking raid. And his selection came without seeing what his contribution was off the field, with Graham an inspirational leader of the young Sharks group during the two-day event.
And last but not least Blake Ayshford, who many suggest may have been player of the tournament if the Sharks could have knocked the Rabbits off in the final and claimed the Nines title.
Ayshford, playing in all six of the Sharks games proved to be more than a handful out wide with his ball skills and a show of speed when needed a feature of his play. His selection in the Nines team of the tournament was certainly warranted.
Predicably and rightly so, Adam Reynolds from Souths was named Most Valuable Player, with his flawless kicking game in the final the major reason his team was able to dominate the football and ultimately win the match.
Like the Sharks, the Rabbitohs had three players in the Team of the Tournament in Isaac Luke, George Burgess and Reynolds, while Corey Norman from the Eels, Cowboy Michael Morgan and newcomer Solomone Kata of the Warriors were the other chose in the ‘best of’ side.
Congratulations to the three Sharks named in the Team of the Tournament.
Most Valuable Player: NRL Auckland Nines
NRL Auckland Nines Team of the Tournament
1. Corey Norman – Eels
2. Adam Reynolds – Rabbitohs
3. Issac Luke – Rabbitohs
4. George Burgess – Rabbitohs
5. Michael Morgan – Cowboys
6. Solomone Kata – Warriors
7. Chris Heighington – Sharks
8. Wade Graham – Sharks
9. Blake Ayshford – Sharks