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NRL Nines set to go global

The intense interest in the inaugural NRL Auckland Nines could spawn a global event with Super League sides set to join the tournament next year.
NRL Nines set to go global
by AAP

By James MacSmith

AUCKLAND, Feb 14 AAP - The intense interest in the inaugural NRL Auckland Nines could spawn a global event with Super League sides set to join the tournament next year.

NRL boss Dave Smith revealed on Friday Super League sides had expressed an interest in playing in this weekend's tournament but had been turned down in order to best promote the Australian competition.

Wigan have been in New Zealand in the lead-up to their World Cup Challenge clash with the Sydney Roosters next week and tournament organisers say they were stunned at the hype surrounded the shortform event.

Bradford are understood to be another side to have indicated their interest in playing at the Nines.

If expanded next year the competition could even include French side Catalans Dragons.

"We have already attracted attention and interest from the international clubs who want to be part of the format," Smith.

"We chose not to do that this year because we want to land this tournament but there is lots of interest.

"We're committed to staging the Nines in Auckland for at least three years with a two-year option and I believe the event will get bigger and bigger.

"This format has a lot of potential. Once we get through the weekend, we'll sit down with our partners and think about how we can make the event bigger and better.

"It's a serious tournament and the event is a sellout. We will have more than 100,000 people over the two days and I believe we haven't had a tournament sellout at Eden Park since 1992.

"We have really sparked the interest level for the greater good of rugby league.

"The NRL has a very clear strategy to expand the game and these are just some examples. The way Auckland has embraced rugby league shows how successful we can be if we try.

"We said we have a vision to expand the game and we are now implementing that strategy."

Before a ball has been kicked in anger, or a five point try scored, the NRL has declared the Auckland Nines a raging success.

A day before the start of the inaugural tournament, which is expected to $5 million into the local economy, you can't turn around in Auckland without being reminded about the sold-out Eden Park event.

Smith says the bold rugby league incursion into rugby union heartland has been embraced wholeheartedly by the New Zealand public.

"It's amazing, it's outside our wildest expectation the way it has been received," Smith said.

"The city is absolutely on fire. There is a real energy behind the event.

"I don't think there is anyone in New Zealand who isn't aware rugby league has come to Auckland."




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