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Newcastle Knights Auckland Nines captain Jarrod Mullen has no hesitation in taking part in this year’s tournament, despite suffering a hamstring injury in last year's inaugural campaign.

"Everyone kept asking me whether I wanted to play or not and I really do,” Mullen told the media on Tuesday morning following the 18-man squad announcement.

“It's such a great concept. The whole of New Zealand really grasp the concept and a lot of Aussies were over there too.

"It will be a good trip away… because you're playing footy from 10 o'clock in the morning to six at night, so it's a lot of footy for everyone.”

The squad, which combines a good mix of youth and experience, will look at the success of the North Queensland Cowboys as part of this year’s preparations.

"We're going over there with a good young side to give our younger kids a go,” Mullen said.

"Every squad will probably fancy themselves because they have fast outside backs and big mobile forwards, so it will all just depend on who plays the game well enough.

“Probably on paper the Cowboys didn't have the best side last year but they ended up getting the win because they played it the best way, so we'll take a bit out of their performances last year and we'll go over there with a shot."

With a number of players set to make their Nines debut, Mullen picks Sione Mata’utia to stand out in the nine-a-side format.

“I can't wait to see how Sione goes in his second year,” Mullen said.

“Obviously he earned that Test jersey at the end of last year and he's showing no signs of second year syndrome, so I think he's going to be really exciting for us in the future. He's something special, that's for sure."

For Mullen personally, leading the side out onto Eden Park is an added bonus. 

"Anytime you captain this great club it's an honour so I'll be looking to lead the boys well and head to Auckland to get the chocolates,” he said.

The Knights are grouped in the Rangitoto pool, and will play the Parramatta Eels, Manly Sea Eagles and St George Illawarra Dragons at the January 31 and February 1 tournament.