Chris McQueen put in a strong performance for the Gold Coast Titans at the Auckland Nines.
Chris McQueen put in a strong performance for the Gold Coast Titans at the Auckland Nines. DAN PELED

Nines form has McQueen primed for big season

KINGAROY Red Ant junior Chris McQueen was an instrumental cog in the Gold Coast Titans side that competed at the Auckland Nines competition at the weekend.

The former Maroon player joined a strong squad which included Jarryd Hayne, Anthony Don and Tyrone Roberts as the Titans looked to claim their first piece of silverware in club history.

In their opening game, the Titans easily accounted for reigning NRL premiers Cronulla Sharks 25-4 to sound a warning shot to the rest of the competition.

McQueen would cross the try line in the Titans' next match against Canterbury; a 17-10 win.

It meant the Titans finished Saturday unbeaten, and firmed with bookies into $7 to win the competition behind favourites the Cowboys, Broncos and Eels.

But with a knee injury side-lining Hayne, and McQueen also absent from Sunday's opening match, eventual grand finalists Penrith trounced the Gold Coast side 22-4.

Hayne was put on ice for the rest of the tournament, as the Titans managed to progress from their Waiheke group and into a quarter final showdown with last year's Auckland Nine winners, Parramatta.

McQueen returned after his earlier absence, but the reigning title-holders showed their credentials in a dominant 14-0 performance that signalled the end of McQueen and the Titans' competition.

It would prove to be a round of upsets, as heavy favourites the Cowboys fell 25-12 to the Melbourne Storm while the Broncos slipped to a 15-14 loss to an upstart Roosters side.

Parramatta would go on to lose to the Panthers in the semi-finals, and after a 21-16 win over the Melbourne Storm the Roosters booked their place in the decider.

Few would have picked a Roosters/Panthers grand final at the beginning of the weekend, but both sides put on a spectacle for the competition's showpiece match.

The Roosters raced out of the blocks to pile on two tries to nil in the opening half, and looked to be set for a comfortable win before Nathan Cleary raced the length of the field to bring Penrith within two points inside 30 seconds remaining.

Cleary was unable to add the extras required to send the game into extra time, with the Roosters crowned 2017 Auckland Nines champions in a 10-8 thriller.

It was a promising campaign for the Titans, who will like what they saw from their youngsters. They begin their NRL season against the Roosters at CBUS Stadium on March 4.