The novelty of the Auckland Nines has already worn off for the Sydney Roosters – much to their rivals’ anxiety.
Suddenly it seems the Roosters are very serious about winning what has been billed as the “fun” $2.4 million NRL season opener.
Eyebrows were raised about the Roosters’ initial intentions when they named retiree Brad Fittler in last year’s squad.
And a 42-year-old Fittler proved to be a promoter’s dream thanks to his now famous 70m intercept try in their pool win over the Broncos at the inaugural tournament.
But it seems the Roosters were hardly satisfied after they failed to advance from the pool stage with a 1-2 win-loss record.
Any doubts over the Roosters’ 2015 gameplan were quickly erased when they avoided a mooted move to inject more club legends – either Anthony Minichiello or Luke Ricketson – into the 2015 squad.
And the tri-colours further revealed their hand when they announced both starting halves Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney in a strong 2015 squad.
Still, Roosters assistant coach Steve McNamara thought he would ram home the point ahead of the 2015 opener on Saturday.
“It wasn’t the most positive experience for us last year,” the Roosters deputy and England head coach said.
“We are going to give it our best shot – we are representing our shirt, our club.
“We want to give our best performance and hopefully that takes us a long way in this competition.”
The Roosters’ selection of Fittler appeared to kick-start a Nines “old boys” trend.
Manly veteran Steve Menzies also came out of retirement in the inaugural tournament.
And this year Canberra stalwart Ken Nagas and South Sydney veteran Matt King have dusted off the boots.
But the Roosters hope to start their own tradition by claiming the lucrative Nines trophy with a bulked up squad.
Apart from their dream halves, the Roosters will be bolstered by the likes of Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Tongan international Willie Manu and boom youngsters Mitch Williams and Jackson Hastings.
However the controversial Blake Ferguson did not make the Nines cut.
And according to Waerea-Hargreaves – Nines co-captain with Pearce – they may not need the ex-NSW flyer.
Asked about the Roosters bucking the trend and naming their starting halves for Auckland, Waerea-Hargreaves said: “This is their (Pearce-Maloney’s) game.
“They are going to kill it out there.
“I think we can (win the tournament).”
Roosters CEO Brian Canavan injected: “It’s a prestigious event and we are taking it very seriously.”