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Wiki defends Warriors' poor nines showing

NZN 5/02/2017 Matt Encarnacion

Warriors legend Ruben Wiki has defended the NRL club's decision to field a mostly reserve-grade outfit that failed to win a game at the Auckland Nines.

The tournament hosts went winless for the first time in the event's four-year history after they were pipped on the siren by St George Illawarra in their final group match on Sunday.

Nines drawcard Shaun Johnson was once again a no-show despite tournament coach Steve McNamara leaving the door open for the Warriors halfback to appear on day two.

His absence left the Warriors lacking star power and leaving an inexperienced squad to flounder in front of their home fans at Eden Park.

"I think these guys could be my sons. They're just coming out of school," Wiki said.

"At this stage of the nines, they're playing the best in the world. I think they'll take something out of this and hopefully get better come the pre-season games."

The 44-year-old, who came out of retirement to play in the shortened format, denied new coach Stephen Kearney had gone too far in wrapping his NRL stars in cotton wool.

"It's the only way to learn, put them in there, in the lion's den," Wiki said.

"So hopefully they can get better from that. We had no superstars out there, but Steve's about growing our club, and these are the future kids of the Warriors."

Wiki rejected any chance of repeating his comeback at next year's tournament.

"I think I've used my card up. My kids got to watch me again and my wife, and all my friends and family. It was only 48 hours but really enjoyed every bit of it," he said.

"They just couldn't get me over the tryline. That's all I wanted, was a try."

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