Former Great Britain international and Leeds Rhinos Head of Youth Development Barrie McDermott believes the development of Nines rugby could give the next generation of Rugby League stars the edge on the biggest stage of all.
Nines rugby is played over just 15 minutes with nine players-a-side with pool stages held on consecutive Tuesday evenings during June at venues around the country. Each team plays three games at each Festival with the Rhinos undefeated in the first Festival at Featherstone last week.
The Rhinos are on home soil tonight when they take on Bradford, Hull FC and Featherstone at Headingley Carnegie in the Wilson Pies Nines and McDermott believes that the concept for the competition is one that can benefit the next generation of players and help towards ending the Southern hemispheres domination of the international game.
He commented, “I believe we need to develop a better way of playing to our strengths in this country if we are going to finally topple the Australians. As a game we have been obsessed with trying to beat the Aussies at what they are good at however we were more skilful than them in generations gone by and Nines gives the better players more decisions to make at an intense level.
“The young players have to practice their skill, the more momentum we build with the Nines and the bigger the crowds the more our players learn to make the simple but effective choices in games. Passes are only risky when there is pressure involved either from defenders or because the passer or catcher has anxiety. The Nines concept is very far removed from touch and pass but it continually presents 3 attackers v 2 defenders and 2 v 1 opportunities all over the pitch with fast skilful players all over the pitch.
“We need to keep mixing what our players get exposed to early in their career. The best players need to learn how to play with ‘disciplined expression’ knowing which pass to make, line to run or simple option to take. If we keep following what others are doing that’s exactly what we’ll do. I think we need to reclaim our identity and Nines do develop skill, composure and ‘disciplined expression’,” added McDermott.
The Rhinos will be out to impress on Tuesday night as they cap off the Jubilee Weekend at their home Nines Festival, with gates opening at 6pm and the first game, Leeds v Featherstone, kicking off at 7pm. The Rhinos will then face Hull FC and finish off against Bradford Bulls in the final game of the night.
The entire first team squad will be at Headingley Carnegie on Tuesday to support the Nines team and will be signing autographs with fans from 7.35pm on the Carnegie Stand terrace. Admission is £5 for adults, concessions and students but kids go FREE.
Even more there is a free Wilson’s Pie for the first 500 fans in the ground and there will be a special Arc Rhinos Handicap Race when first teamers will race over 90m with a staggered start to advantage the slower players to hopefully set up a photo finish and earn a special prize from The Arc.
Liam Hood and Brad Singleton have been playing at Dewsbury on a dual registration but are back at the Rhinos on Tuesday night. Leeds Carnegie winger Curtis Wilson will be looking to continue his successful switch after scoring on his debut at Featherstone last week, whilst Stevie Ward will lead the team once again.
The Rhinos squad, which will be reduced to 13 on the night of the game, is as follows:
1 Jimmy Watson
2 Curtis Wilson
3 Jimmy Keinhorst
4 Ben Jones-Bishop
5 Jamel Chisholm
6 Stevie Ward
7 Ollie Olds
8 Brad Singleton
9 Liam Hood
10 Weller Hauraki/Chris Clarkson
11 Alex Foster
12 Luke Briscoe
13 Aaron Brown
14 James Duckworth
15 Liam Sutcliffe
16 Sean Casey