Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

League: Star power steals the opening day of the NRL Nines

Cowboys playmaker Johnathan Thurston was making his first appearance at the NRL Nines. Photo / photosport.nz
Cowboys playmaker Johnathan Thurston was making his first appearance at the NRL Nines. Photo / photosport.nz

If you needed a reminder of the magic of star power, it was there for all to see at the Auckland Nines today.

While the crowd's attention ebbed and flowed throughout the day, everyone was entranced when the biggest names were on the field.

That was no more apparent than when Johnathan Thurston took the field, making his debut bow at the Nines.

Jarryd Hayne and Benji Marshall also attracted plenty of focus, though perhaps the biggest cheers were reserved for 44-year-old Ruben Wiki.

The Kiwis legend handled himself well, not looking out of place around players decades younger.

"As you can see - I survived," laughed Wiki. "It was fun to get out there with the boys. [And] we had unlimited interchanges so it made it easy on this old fella anyway."

Video

Wiki dealt well with the challenge, managing to stop Manly juggernaut Martin Taupau in his tracks in the Warriors first match.

"[He ran straight at me," said Wiki. "I had him by the laces and I just hung on. I don't know if that is classed as a missed tackle. But it was fine. They keep running away from me for some reason...I don't know."

Fellow players noticed his impact.

"I thought I heard some boos when they were skipping out a few players and not giving him the ball," said Broncos prop Adam Blair. "I'm excited myself to sit down and watch him play."

Video

Blair was also impressed by new teammate Benji Marshall, as the former Kiwi returned to Eden Park for the first time since his ill-fated Blues stint.

"The boys enjoy having him around [and] he's a great leader for the younger guys," said Blair. "We'll see some great things from him this year I hope."

The most impressive performance came from Thurston, who had the ball on a string for the Cowboys, setting up breaks at will in their 27-15 win over the Roosters in their opening game.

"It was fun and tough at the same time," said Thurston. "You see a lot more space when you have got the ball, it's a lot quicker but it's a great style of footy to play this time of year."

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 30 May 2017 10:32:45 Processing Time: 767ms