Stuart praises old boys' Nines influence
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart says the best part about the involvement of Raiders legends in recent Nines campaigns has been their influence on the younger players and he expects the Warriors to draw a similar benefit from his old teammate Ruben Wiki.
Stuart played alongside Wiki from 1993 to 1998 in the nation's capital and expects the legendary hit-man to bring his famous work ethic to the shortened game this February.
Raiders legends Ken Nagas (in 2015) and Jason Croker (2016) have previously come out of retirement for a Nines swansong as Wiki is this year with his other former NRL club, the Warriors.
"It will be wonderful," Stuart said when asked about Wiki's involvement at the launch of Wheelchair Sports NSW's 'Summer Down Under' series in Canberra on Thursday.
"I know our senior players over the years – Jason Croker and Kenny Nagas – they enjoyed the concept of the Nines.
"They enjoyed coming back and competing again but what I got most out of it was what my younger players experienced having those guys in the team themselves.
"Both Kenny and Jason spoke to the guys before games and they took it seriously and I think it's a good concept, bringing back some of your senior players who are serious about competing in the Nines."
The 43-year-old Wiki, while trimmed-down, still looked fit enough to be in the NRL when unveiled by the Warriors this week.
"He's not as big as he was when he was playing but he'll certainly have the same desire and healthy attitude that he's always carried so it will be good to watch him have a run," Stuart added of his former Raiders teammate.
Of his own squad, Stuart wasn't ready to reveal who would be making the trip but hinted there were plenty of players he'd already ruled out due to injury, representative workload or simply not being suited to the frenetic nine-man version of the game.
"We've got a number of players who are unavailable through injury, through our representative commitments and there are players are physically not built, haven't got the physical capacity to be a Nines player because it's a certain body, certain type of training you need and that's where you've got to be very careful," Stuart said.
Those Four Nations representatives – such as Jordan Rapana, Elliott Whitehead, Josh Hodgson and Shannon Boyd – have only just returned to pre-season training after an extended rest and Stuart said they had immediately lifted the on-field intensity of what the club was doing.
"It just ups the quality of our training. They've just added another percentage of our intensity and the quality of our football at training has just been wonderful," he said.
"There's a great attitude around the camp at the moment, they're training very hard as every club would be at this stage of their pre-season.
"You can only work with what you've got and as a coach I'm very happy with the attitude of my players that are applying to the hard work at this stage of the year."
This article first appeared on NRL.com