Wayne Bennett
Wayne Bennett Mark Kolbe

Knights to shine in nines warns Willie

JUST because Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett has won more NRL grand finals than any other coach in rugby league history, it does not mean he will be able to translate that record to the nine-a-side game.

That was the view of veteran Knights forward Willie Mason, who yesterday in Auckland helped draw the teams in their pools.

All 16 NRL clubs will be involved in the inaugural competition, which is to be played at Eden Park next February and offer $2.25 million in prizemoney - more than the amount on offer for the NRL premiership.

"It's hard to make a lot out of it," Mason said.

"Nobody has played nines before. I think we can field a very strong side with our backline.

"We scored the most tries out of any NRL team this year, so we can definitely find that line ... and we have Wayne Bennett as a coach.

"But ... just because Wayne is the best 13-man coach in history doesn't mean he's the best nines coach. It's new to him as well.

"I would hate to be a coach trying to figure this sort of stuff out."

For his part, Bennett said he believed the tournament would be "a great celebration of rugby league".

Mason drew the Warriors out of the box first, with the hosts to take on the Raiders, Sea Eagles and Cowboys in their pool.

Each pool has four teams, the top two progressing to the quarter-finals.


  •  Yellow pool: Warriors, Raiders, Sea Eagles, Cowboys
  •  Green pool: Roosters, Eels, Broncos, Bulldogs
  •  Blue pool: Sharks, Knights, Tigers, Titans
  •  Red pool: Storm, Dragons, Panthers, Rabbitohs