DOWNER NRL AUCKLAND NINES POWER RANKINGS 2016

Just over two years ago the  NRL Auckland Nines blazed into life in front of a sold out Eden Park crowd and a huge TransTasman television audience. There was plenty of excitement, and also plenty of curiosity. What would the Nines game actually be like? Who would turn up? Who would star? Would there be more Minions than Smurfs in the crowd? And who would emerge victorious? So many questions. Now, as the tournament’s third edition kicks into gear, there are just as many unknowns. But we do at least have some form in the books as we try to figure out who the big guns will be in 2016.

Steve Deane crunches the numbers from two years of action to produce the first ever Downer NRL Auckland Nines Power Rankings.

1. RABBITOHS

WON: 8, LOST: 2
POINTS FOR: 208
POINTS AGAINST: 101,
2014: Quarter final
2015: Champions


Having survived a furious Sharks comeback to clinch the 2015 final with a thrilling extra time win, the Rabbitohs have established themselves as the short format’s premier force. Undefeated in 2015 en route to the title, they have posted the most wins (tied with the Sharks with eight), have the least losses (just two) and have scored the most points. Playmaker Adam Reynolds also scooped the player of the tournament award in 2015.

2. SHARKS

WON: 8, LOST: 3
POINTS FOR: 197
POINTS AGAINST: 117
2014: Semi final
2015: Beaten finalist (ET)


Unfancied heading into 2014 and 2015, the Sharks have emerged as the real deal at Nines. A surprise semifinalist in 2014, they proved that run was no fluke last summer by storming to the final and pushing the Rabbitohs all the way in a thrilling extra time final. Had it not been for a try conceded from a charge down, they might well have been the defending champions this weekend. They won’t catch anyone napping the third time around.

3. NZ WARRIORS

WON: 6, LOST: 3
POINTS FOR: 167
POINTS AGAINST: 130
2014: Semi final
2015: Quarter final


It’s perhaps a touch controversial to place the Warriors ahead of a Cowboys team that claimed the inaugural title in 2014, however the host club has only lost one match in pool play over two tournaments and has never lost a match by more than four points. With home crowd advantage and talent to burn, they’ll again be a favourite. However they’ll need to improve when the acid goes on, having notched just one win in three finals matches, much to the disappointment of their passionate fans.

4. COWBOYS

WON: 6, LOST: 4
POINTS FOR: 155
POINTS AGAINST: 116
2014: Champions
2015: Quarter final


Having somehow scraped out of their pool with just one win in 2014, the Cowboys showed that it is anyone’s game once the playoffs begin on day two by storming to the title. They looked a good chance to defend their title last year only to run into a red hot Eels side in the quarters. The reigning NRL premiers have a busy pre-season schedule that includes a trip to the United Kingdom for the World Club Series, but that won’t stop them fielding a squad chocked full of talent here in Auckland.

5. EELS

WON: 5, LOST: 4
POINTS FOR: 137
POINTS AGAINST: 141
2014: Quarter final
2015: Semi final


Not a lot has gone right for the Eels in the NRL proper in recent years, but they’ve shrugged off their doldrums in the Auckland sun in both Nines tournaments so far. The draw hasn’t done them many favours in the knockout stages – particularly last year when they ran into the rampant Bunnies in the semifinals. But they’ve been consistent enough to suggest they’ll again be a threat in 2016 and have a genuine match winner in Semi Radrada – the man who scored a hat trick in his first tournament of Nines.

6. BRONCOS

WON: 5, LOST: 4
POINTS FOR: 113
POINTS AGAINST: 93
2014: Beaten finalist
2015: Eliminated in pool play


The beaten finalists in 2014 would have been disappointed to duff out last year in pool play. After a two-point loss to the Roosters and a heavy defeat by the Sharks, their tournament was as good as over on day one. But the Broncos showed what they were really made of in the regular season, coming within seconds of claiming a seventh NRL Premiership. With talent and speed to burn, they might well be viewing the Nines as a chance to put the pain of their grand final defeat behind them.

7. KNIGHTS

WON: 4, LOST: 4
POINTS FOR: 132
POINTS AGAINST: 120
2014: Quarter final
2015: Quarter final


Steady if unspectacular would describe the Knights’ efforts so far in the Nines format. They’ve been good enough to emerge from tough pools in both tournaments only to fall over at the first hurdle in the playoffs. The Knights club has been in a state of flux in recent years, so they’ll be keen to show their loyal, passionate fanbase that better times are coming.

8. ROOSTERS

WON: 4, LOST: 5
POINTS FOR: 85
POINTS AGAINST: 85
2014: Eliminated in pool play
2015: Semi final


The Roosters turned up in 2015 with a strong squad led by superstars Mitchell Pearce and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck but a game plan based more on rugged defence than flair. They ground their way out of their pool with victories over the Broncos and Bulldogs on day one and dispatched the Tigers in an all-Sydney quarterfinal before falling to the Sharks 10-4 in the semifinals. The 85 points they have conceded in nine matches is the lowest of any team.

9. WESTS TIGERS

WON: 3, LOST: 4
POINTS FOR: 82
POINTS AGAINST: 114
2014: Eliminated in pool play
2015: Quarter final


Given their club’s historic love affair with open, entertaining footy, Tigers fans will have been underwhelmed by the club’s efforts in two trips to Auckland. After a disappointing showing in 2014, they topped the Hunua pool in 2015 thanks to opening day victories over the Titans and Raiders. But Sunday proved a blowout for the Tigers, as they suffered heavy defeats by the Warriors and Roosters to exit at the quarter final stage.

10. DRAGONS

WON: 3, LOST: 3
POINTS FOR: 70
POINTS AGAINST: 105
2014: Eliminated in pool play
2015: Eliminated in pool play


Having won as many matches as they’ve lost but not managed to escape pool play, the Dragons would have to be the unluckiest club in the brief history of the Nines. Last year was particularly cruel, with the Dragons finishing third in the Rangitoto pool despite winning two of their three matches. It’s the only time a team winning two matches has failed to progress. And when you consider that the 2014 champion Cowboys qualified from pool play with just one win, it does seem most unfair. Surely better fortune awaits this weekend.

11. PANTHERS

WON: 2, LOST: 5
POINTS FOR: 81
POINTS AGAINST: 104
2014: Quarter final
2015: Eliminated in pool play


Quarter-finalists in 2014, the Panthers barely fired a shot last year, scoring just 16 points while losing all three matches to finish bottom of the Waiheke pool. It will be interesting to see if they fare any better under new coach Anthony Griffin.

12. TITANS

WON: 2, LOST: 4
POINTS FOR: 98
POINTS AGAINST: 118
2014: Eliminated in pool play
2015: Eliminated in pool play


The top-ranked team of the five clubs that have yet to emerge from pool play
at the Nines, the Titans owe their ranking mainly to the fact the clubs below them have been worse. They’ve been good enough to win a match in each of the last two years but haven’t displayed the sort of consistency required to be a title threat. Last year, for instance, they were thrashed 26-0 by the Tigers only to turn around and hammer the Raiders 38-13.

13. RAIDERS

WON: 2, LOST: 4
POINTS FOR: 78
POINTS AGAINST: 126
2014: Eliminated in pool play
2015: Eliminated in pool play


2015 will go down as a year of what might have been for the Raiders. On Saturday they became the first and only team to defeat the Warriors in pool play, notching a shock 23-19 win when Jack Ahearn scored a bonus point try in the final minute of the match. Their fate was well and truly in their own hands heading into Sunday, however they were slaughtered by the previously winless Titans to limp out of the tournament.

14. STORM

WON: 2, LOST: 4
POINTS FOR: 71
POINTS AGAINST: 85
2014: Eliminated in pool play
2015: Eliminated in pool play


For all their consistency and success in the NRL proper, the Storm haven’t had much success to date. Last year they copped a tough Waiheke pool that also included defending Nines champions North Queensland Cowboys and then reigning NRL champions South Sydney Rabbitohs. In a quirk of the draw, they were also grouped with the Rabbitohs in 2014 (when they beat them 18-12) – and will face them again in 2016.

15. SEA EAGLES

WON: 1, LOST: 5
POINTS FOR: 80
POINTS AGAINST: 118
2014: Eliminated in pool play
2015: Eliminated in pool play


Manly manage to sidestep placing last on the NRL Nines Power Rankings but it’s a close run thing. The Sea Eagles actually won their first ever Nines match, defeating the eventual 2014 champion Cowboys 17-8. But since then they have been both unlucky and unsuccessful, losing five straight matches to the Raiders, Warriors, Eels, Dragons and Knights.

16. BULLDOGS

WON: 1, LOST: 5
POINTS FOR: 36
POINTS AGAINST: 86
2014: Eliminated in pool play
2015: Eliminated in pool play


To understand why the Bulldogs have struggled at Nines we need look no further than their ‘points for’ column. The Dogs’ tally of just 36 points is slightly more than half of the next worst team (the Dragons have 70 points from the same number of matches). Last year the Dogs scored just 10 points from two tries over 54 minutes of football – and you aren’t going to win many games doing that. The Dogs have defended well though, conceding a respectable 86 points over six games.