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Nines can sell league to world: Meninga

Despite the potential impact on the NRL All Stars, Mal Meninga is not only behind the Nines concept but backed it becoming a world circuit that could extend the career of league greats.
Nines can sell league to world: Meninga
by AAP

By Laine Clark

BRISBANE, Aug 15 AAP - Despite the potential impact on the NRL All Stars, Mal Meninga is not only behind the Nines concept but backed it becoming a world circuit that could extend the career of league greats.

A $2.2 million NRL Nines tournament is set for Auckland from February 15-16 after Meninga suggested the format to organisers hoping to stage a seven-a-side event.

It looms as the pre-season showpiece after the NRL postponed the All Stars game until 2015 to help players recover from this year's World Cup.

It is believed the lucrative Nines - which offers a $500,000 winning cheque - are again planned for 2015 when the All Stars return but it remains to be seen how long the events can co-exist due to player workload concerns.

However, Queensland coach Meninga threw his weight behind the Nines concept saying it could be used to sell the code to the world.

He believed it could also be used to keep league greats involved in the game competing on a global circuit similar to rugby union's Sevens World Series.

"I think the potential for the concept is huge - well beyond a single event for NRL clubs in Auckland," he wrote in his Former Origin Greats website blog.

"Thinking long term, there is the opportunity for external franchises to become involved in rugby league.

"Maybe eventually the Nines could become its own satellite competition like the Sevens in rugby are now.

"It is also a way for some of our young stars to step up and make a name for themselves or, potentially, a way for great players to remain active in the game without the weekly grind of playing in the NRL."

Due to the World Cup, NRL clubs will only be required to select eight of their top 25 players in a 12-man squad for the Nines - including just one of their top five players.

World Cup players will also be exempted from the Nines.

Nines organisers are still convinced it will be a success, citing the rugby sevens leg held in Wellington which is sold out each year despite not boasting an All Blacks player.

"I think the people that have been talking negatively about the Nines concept probably aren't considering the great potential the idea has as a long-term asset for the game," said Meninga who coached the first Australian Nines team in a Super League contest in Fiji in 1996.

"I think there will be a great deal of excitement among fans about a new rugby league product, and I think it will be an excellent product for television.

"The style of play in Nines will also help to spread the game internationally.

"Being an enjoyable sporting spectacle will help us get a foothold in markets that may not have heard of rugby league before, the same way that sevens helped take rugby into more markets."




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