Rabbitohs hooker Issac Luke is desperate to play in the 2015 NRL Auckland Nines and will be nagging coach Michael Maguire to ensure he gets on the field at Eden Park next month.
The Kiwis test No 9 missed this year's inaugural Nines tournament despite pleading with Maguire to give him a start for nearly a month leading up to the event.
"I asked him on the day as well. I flew over and was saying 'can I still play?'" Luke explained at the official 2015 NRL Auckland Nines jersey launch in Sydney yesterday.
"I'll punish him every day from now on until then. Ultimately Madge knows what is best for you and he's brought the best out of a lot of players.
"If he thinks the Nines is best for me then he'll let me play."
The $2.4 million tournament will be held on Saturday, January 31 and Sunday, February 1, and for the first time clubs will wear everything from basketball cut jerseys through to Aussie Rules-style tops for the summer event.
Luke joined fellow representative stars James Maloney (Roosters), Brett Morris (Bulldogs), Josh Dugan (Dragons) and Matt Gillett (Broncos), with NRL Head of Commercial Paul Kind, to launch the 2015 Nines jerseys in downtown Sydney.
The fiercely proud New Zealander said it would be "very special" to get the chance to take part in the Nines for the first time and play in front of his family once more on home soil but admits he will be learning on the fly.
"It would be very special. I'd be able to knock over two birds with one stone. I'd get to see my family and get to play in front of them as well. It'd be great," said Luke.
"I don't know [what to expect]. I haven't played nines since I was 15. I played in the Bartercard Cup [once] at North Harbour in 2004. I played that with my older brother but I haven't played it since."
The open nature of nines football suits players who can play off the cuff and Luke is full of admiration for the skills shown by his Kiwis teammate and Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson. "I know a lot of energetic players will probably get the most out of it. It's not really a structured game, it's just free flowing," said Luke.
"Shaun is probably the best at it, he showed that last year.
"I watched all the games and that fulla was on fire."
The event will also include a nine-a-side match-up between the current women's world champions the Jillaroos against New Zealand's Kiwi Ferns.
"The success of this year's tournament, which attracted over 90,000 fans and many star NRL players, shows that this event has the potential to be New Zealand's biggest summer event," explained Kind.
"It is a fantastic opportunity for fans to see all 16 clubs in the one place at Eden Park.
"This is also an opportunity to grow our game in New Zealand and for our clubs and players to share in the spectacle."
St George Illawarra star Dugan said he was excited to again be a part of the Nines concept, which involves a two-day, nine-a-side tournament and was last year won by the North Queensland Cowboys.
"I loved the experience in last year's Nines and I'm looking forward to being a part of the shorter format again," Dugan said. "Everyone who was involved enjoyed being a part of the concept and it will be a great way to kick the year off."
This year's tournament was a huge success, with a sell-out crowd filling Eden Park over two days, and next year's edition is expected be even bigger with organisers reporting strong sales.
2015 NRL Auckland Nines Pool Draw
Rangitoto Pool: Eels, Sea Eagles, Knights, Dragons
Waiheke Pool: Storm, Cowboys, Panthers, Rabbitohs
Piha Pool: Roosters, Broncos, Bulldogs, Sharks
Hunua Ranges Pool: Tigers, Warriors, Raiders, Titans
9 facts for the 2015 NRL Auckland Nines
31 men's games 288 players, 3 women's games, 44 players = more than 300 athletes in city.
4000 hand-held club flags will be given to those fans who have a ticket for their club's fan zone.
1000sq m of grass will be grown as backup to replace the painted on-field signage.
42,000 empty drink bottles will be distributed to fans on entry, so they can access any of the 18 free drinking stations.
220 balls will be used in play/practice by the teams.
1496 white towels will be used by the teams across the two days (22 per team per game).
544 hands will dispense more than 24 hours of massages.
More than 8 tonnes of ice (780 bags) will be used by the players in recovery.
Team kickers will have only 25 seconds to complete their penalty and conversion kicks.