GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 07: Jarryd Hayne of the Titans greets fans before entering the field of play for the warm-ups before the round 22 NRL match between the Gold Coast Titans and the New Zealand Warriors at Cbus Super Stadium on August 7, 2016 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Pool: Waiheke Pool (Sharks, Titans, Panthers, Bulldogs)

Squad: Morgan Boyle, Alexander Brimson, Tyler Cornish, Anthony Don, Kane Elgey, Jarryd Hayne, Ryan James, Max King, Chris McQueen, John Olive, Nathaniel Peteru, Pat Politoni, Leivaha Pulu, Tyrone Roberts, Tyronne Roberts-Davis, Hayden Schwass, Paterika Vaivai, Daniel Vidot, William Zillman


vs Cronulla Sharks (10am Feb 4 AEDT)
vs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (2:20pm Feb 4 AEDT)
vs Penrith Panthers (9am Feb 5 AEDT)

After a season exceeding expectations, the Titans will look to continue their good form at the Auckland Nines after a strong tournament last year. The inclusion of Jarryd Hayne and Ryan James is set to strike fear into opponents, with the former’ speed and power to make him one of the weekend’s standouts.

RELATED: Click here to see the 2017 Auckland Nines jerseys!

Dally M Rookie of the Year Ashley Taylor is assured the halfback spot, with Kane Elgey and Tyrone Roberts to battle it out at the Nines for the five-eighth role. The departure of Nene Macdonald has vacated the left wing spot, with Will Zillman, John Olive and Daniel Vidot all candidates included in the squad.

The omission of Agnatius Paasi is a surprising one, after the big man nearly took out last year’s MVP award, though fellow forwards Leivaha Pulu and Chris McQueen to help fill the gap, with McQueen’s former years as a winger making him a star performer in this format.

Who To Watch: Jarryd Hayne. It’s an easy option to pick the two-time Dally M winner, but with each team only fielding nine players at a time, Hayne could explode. Blessed with speed, strength and ball-playing ability, a full pre-season could leave Hayne in career best shape, a fearful thought for the other teams.

RELATED: Click here to see the 2017 Auckland Nines squads!

Why They Can Win: Speed. No matter where you look throughout the squad, there’s a stack of pace. Hayne is one of the league’s fastest men, while Elgey and Roberts’ speed makes them even more deceptive. Even their forwards, namely Ryan James and Chris McQueen, are faster than most. While speed is only one asset needed to win the Nines, it goes a long way to getting them there.

Why They Can’t Win: Experience. Only half a dozen players in the squad have over 50 NRL games, and while it’s an unpredictable format, there’s still an element of a game plan needed to take it out. They simply lack the guidance to get them through the tournament. The majority of the players in the squad have limited big game experience, and despite the Nines not being ‘a big game’, that doesn’t mean there’s any less pressure. Still, captainless ahead of the 2017 NRL season, the Titans need a leader – and fast.

Prediction: A team bustling with talent is simply too good to ignore. So many big names of the present and the future, the Titans are certain to make a big splash at the tournament. Gifted with a stack of players that can bust a game wide open, the Gold Coast Titans will go far in this tournament, but not far enough.

Finish: Quarter-Finalists

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