Nines showcase thrilling talent ... and bad haircuts
RUGBY LEAGUE: With the fourth edition of the Auckland Nines now done and dusted for another year and the Roosters the new champions - and $370,000 richer - it seems opportune to highlight some of the left-field highlights of the weekend tournament.
Although the crowd was down, more than likely because the Warriors failed to win a game, some dazzling footy was played and a number of new stars thrilled. But sitting through just on 20 hours of almost continuous rugby league can entice the mind to wander.
Attention-grabbers from the Nines included:
Worst haircut: Clint Gutherson (Eels), followed closely by Jaelen Feeney (Knights) and Bernard Lewis (Roosters).
New hairdo: Josh Hoffman (Eels), sporting tight curls.
Scruffiest facial hair: Ryan Hoffman (Warriors).
Healthiest beard: Adam Blair (Broncos).
Best unknown: Jai Field (Dragons). His 70m try against the Sea Eagles was one of the tournament highlights.
Best Nines jersey: Panthers. But let's face it, anything would be better than what they usually wear.
Please explain: With $2.3 million in prizemoney, why don't coaches put more emphasis on drop-goal kicking?
Mr Fitbit: James Tamou (Panthers) looks fitter than he has ever been.
New man one: Clean-shaven and 20kg lighter, Sam Kasiano sported a new look. Unfortunately for Dogs fans, his form was still mediocre.
New man two: David Klemmer (Bulldogs), with long hair and a beard, was unrecognisable.
Best shiner: Tigers coach Jason Taylor sported a black eye, yet Robbie Farah was nowhere to be seen.
Sweetest win: When the Knights beat the Tigers 18-10 in round one, it was their first victory since April last year.
Scrum drought: Almost obsolete in Nines footy, the first scrum of the tournament was not packed until the 15th minute of the sixth match.
Bunker-free: With the bunker replaced by in-goal judges, decisions were concise, never disputed and 99.9% correct.
Speed machine: While there was no match race, the consensus was that 20-year-old Cowboys flyer Gideon Gela-Mosby was the fastest man at the tournament, with Josh Addo-Carr (Storm) a very close second.
Name game: Standing beside each other in the Titans backline were Tyrone Roberts and Tyronne Roberts-Davis, the cousin of Broncos speedster James Roberts.
Appropriate sponsor: Considering their legal wrangles they experienced in 2016, it was fitting the Eels jersey sponsor was Shine Lawyers.
Knightmare: Already upset over losing his superstar youngster to Newcastle in 2018, Cowboys coach Paul Green would have been even more agitated after the breathtakingly brilliant display by Kalyn Ponga.
Headgear hero: Jonathan Thurston elected to wear the James Ackerman Memorial Headgear to honour a player he had never met nor played against, presenting one to a fan after each match.
Lookalikes: Panthers rookie Jed Cartwright is a rubber stamp of his dad, John, who was a premiership winner for Penrith.
Brain snap: From beside the posts in the quarter-final, Jordan Kahu took a second longer than permitted for his successful conversion, and that cost the Broncos the match.
Aberration: The freakish try by Gideon Gela-Mosby in the quarter-final had to be seen to be believed.