Ricky Henry: Defence key for Warriors in Nines

CHANGE OF SCENE: Konrad Hurrell could be used as forward for the Auckland NRL Nines.
CHANGE OF SCENE: Konrad Hurrell could be used as forward for the Auckland NRL Nines.

Rotation is a word coaches generally shy away from using in New Zealand, but Warriors Nines coach Ricky Henry says he'll be doing that nonstop at the Auckland Nines this weekend.

There are unlimited substitutions allowed at the tournament and Henry says he intends to make full use of that rule during the team's matches.

"I don't think anyone's going to play nine straight minutes," Henry said. "I think it's going to be near impossible, just because of the way the game is structured and the rules that have been put in place to speed up the game.

"So it's going to be tough out there to play nine straight minutes, have a two-minute break and then play another nine minutes. A lot of guys will be rotated to get time on the field." The Warriors' squad for the Nines had their first training run as a group yesterday, but Henry has been looking at videos and putting together a game plan for a while and although his side boasts arguably more strike power than any other, he says it will be defence that's key for them.

"If you can defend better than you attack then you've got a better chance of winning," he said.

"The only reason why I say that is because we've got some really good attackers but stopping tries is probably more important than scoring them.

"Our focus is on defence and getting that right and we'll leave the attack up to Shaun Johnson, Tuimoala Lolohea and Sam Tomkins." To add some novelty factor to the Nines there is a bonus zone in the in-goal area between the two posts, where tries scored are worth five points, rather than four.

"If we can get in there it's a big play," Henry said. "If the game is pretty close and you can score a try to draw the game or win it by scoring inside the zone, we'll be going for that, and I'm sure other teams will have some plays around how they exploit that zone." Warriors NRL coach Matt Elliott is taking a back seat for the Nines and has been focused on the club's three trial games. As a result, he handed over responsibility to Henry, who is one of his assistant coaches during the regular season.

He has progressed up the coaching ranks at the Warriors and has previously been in charge of the under-18s and Auckland Vulcans sides.

With so few New Zealanders coaching league at a high level, Henry could be one to watch for the future and he's someone rated highly by Elliott.

In many ways, this Nines tournament will be a chance for him to show his wares.

One thing he has decided upon for his Nines team is that players won't necessarily be playing in their usual positions for the 13-man game.

"We will have blokes like Konrad Hurrell, who can play in the forwards," he said. "So you're going to have to have guys who are quick enough and fast enough to either play in the middle of the park or out on an edge.

"So it's more about the mobility of the players than anything else, and that's what we're looking at."

Warriors squad: Jayson Bukuya, Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Glen Fisiiahi, David Fusitua, Charlie Gubb, Konrad Hurrell, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Shaun Johnson, Solomone Kata, Ngani Laumape, Tuimoala Lolohea, Sione Lousi, Suaia Matagi, Dominique Peyroux, Sam Tomkins, Carlos Tuimavave.

Fairfax Media