I really enjoy watching the Auckland Nines every year. I think it is a perfect way to get the Rugby League season as a whole under way, and it is a great promotional tool for the game in New Zealand which I believe doesn’t get enough help from the NRL to grow.
I would personally like to see other teams included in the Auckland Nines, even if it was just club teams from competitions in England, France, the United States, PNG and the like, but so long as NRL clubs have a decent amount of say, we will not see the money on offer at the tournament possibly going to anyone other than NRL clubs.
While watching all the fun and excitement of the Auckland Nines, I couldn’t help but wonder why we don’t see a few Nines tournaments played over the course of the year.
Rugby League Nines would be a perfect way to have some sort of Rugby League content on our screens during summer. You could even play a tournament indoors at Melbourne’s Docklands Stadium to stop the effects of a hot summer from having too much of an impact.
Obviously the welfare of players needs to be taken into account, but there are no doubt plenty of players from different levels of the game who would love an opportunity to showcase their ability in Rugby League Nines, with the hope being that they can earn a start for an NRL club heading into the following season.
The thing I love about the Auckland Nines is the unpredictable nature of it. The way a player like Corey Norman, a good player in the NRL, can be absolutely unstoppable in the short format of the game.
Its not always the superstar players who come out and dominate the Auckland Nines. I think if there is one thing the 2016 tournament taught us it is that a great Nines player can be a player who just toils away in the lower grades and for what ever reason Rugby League Nines suits their style.
I’d have no issues at all watching lower grade players in a Rugby League Nines tournament for the simple fact that some of them are just so good at Nines when given the opportunity to shine.
I wouldn’t even have a problem with a whole national competition being drawn up from scratch for Rugby League Nines in the style of Soccer’s A League or Cricket’s Big Bash League. Have one team represent each capital city in Australia with other teams representing cities from New Zealand and Pacific Islands nations. Imagine the excitement surrounding a draft for such a competition with clubs being able to bring in new players via a new player drafts every “Off Season” the Nines season has.
NRL clubs would hate the idea of being left out of the party while giving up the use of lower grade players. It begs the question as to whether we should have specialist Rugby League Nines players in a similar way we see specialized Rugby Union Sevens players.
What ever way the NRL could make it happen, I think they need to make it happen. Rugby League Nines is the best short form of “Rugby” you will ever see. We need more of it and we need to stop the closed shop policy.