Man mountain Sam Kasiano has been tipped to fill the attacking void created by Canterbury coach Des Hasler’s refusal to name any of his starting backline for this weekend’s Auckland Nines.
Moments after being named the Bulldogs’ Nines skipper, Greg Eastwood warned Kasiano had emerged from a disciplined pre-season primed to make a Nines impact at Eden Park.
“He has done a great job. He really looked after himself, especially over Christmas,” Eastwood said of the 130kg, 196cm Kasiano.
“He didn’t put on too much weight – he got the reward.
“Hopefully, he shows off some ball skills people haven’t seen before and we can make it all the way to the final.”
Bulldogs fans will hope so.
Not one member of the Dogs’ starting backline was given a Nines nod.
Brett and Josh Morris, Josh Reynolds, Moses Mbye, Curtis Rona and Will Hopoate will all stay at home this weekend.
The only players expected to feature in Hasler’s 17 for their NRL opening-round match who will run out this weekend are forwards – Kasiano, Tony Williams, Tim Browne, Craig Garvey and Eastwood.
Still, Eastwood predicted the Bulldogs to show “a bit more ball-playing ability” at this year’s Nines compared to last year’s disastrous campaign.
Canterbury finished bottom of their pool last year with a 0-3 record.
“Big Kas is in there and Brownie (Tim Browne) and Patty (O’Hanlon) who can all play,” Eastwood said.
“And we’ve got some speedsters in Dane Chisholm and Tyrone Phillips – hopefully, we go a lot further this year.”
Kiwi international Eastwood will take over Canterbury’s reins for the first time, headlining a squad also featuring Brad Abbey, Garvey and Kerrod Holland making their Bulldogs debuts.
Former Dragon Garvey was called up on Monday to the Indigenous All Stars bench.
“It’s a dream to get the opportunity,” Eastwood said.
“It’s obviously just for this tournament but to get the chance to lead the boys out will be great.
“It’ll be my first time over there for the Nines and for it to be in my home city, it’ll be a really good experience.”
Bulldogs’ Nines squad: Brad Abbey, Tim Browne, Dane Chisholm, Greg Eastwood (capt), Adam Elliott, Matt Frawley, Danny Fualalo, Craig Garvey, Kerrod Holland, Sam Kasiano, Shaun Lane, Jarrod McInally, Pat O’Hanlon, Tyrone Phillips, Ruebenn Rennie, Reimis Smith, Chase Stanley, Tony Williams.