By Michael Roberts | posted on November 19, 2020
THE ALBANY Sea Dragons are gearing up for the biggest event in their short history, with rugby league players from across south west WA travelling to Albany this weekend for the inaugural Great Southern Nines tournament.
Play will kick off from 10.30am on Saturday afternoon at Centennial Park (corner of North Road and Campbell Road) in a round robin format that will feature visiting teams from Mandurah, Fremantle, Rockingham and Serpentine.
The top four sides will progress to elimination finals, with the remaining two teams battling it out for glory in a grand final on Sunday at 11am.
Albany Sea Dragons co-captain Elliot Price said it was a great opportunity for his team to test themselves against some class opposition.
“We have travelled elsewhere like Bunbury to play matches, but it’s great for them to come down here,” he said.
Price will co-captain his team – which is made of players from Kojonup, Katanning and Denmark – in tandem with Fineongo Halai.
“I’ve always wanted there to be rugby down in Albany,” Price said.
“As soon as there was a mention of a rugby league down here, I had to be part of it.”
Unlike your normal rugby league games where there is 13 players on each team, the Nines format – you guessed it – only has nine players per side.
It’s also a much shorter game, with each half lasting nine minutes.
“There are less stoppages, smaller scrums – it’s mostly just play on,” Price said.
“It’s a quicker version of an al- ready quick game.”
As part of the tournament, NRL WA is hosting two skills clinics for young rugby enthusiasts.
Kids aged between six and 16 can take part in either of two sessions on Friday from 4.30 to 6pm or Sunday from 9.30 to 11am at Centennial Park.
Albany Sea Dragons President Garry Tutt said the weekend’s festivities were part of a wider push to grow rugby league in the Great Southern.
“There are a lot of people in town who support rugby league,” he said.
“The main reason I think they don’t come down and watch the games is they aren’t aware it’s on.
“Once we get our footprint down, I think people will take more interest.
“We are working towards creating a Great Southern league with Kojonup, Katanning, Denmark and being able to at least play a Nines competition between us all.”