National Rugby League Preseason Nines Competition Gets A$2M Rebirth
A rugby league preseason competition "will be reborn next season" with a A$2M ($1.8M) prize pool, according to Michael Carayannis of the BRISBANE TIMES. The nines tournament will be unveiled by the National Rugby League on Thursday, "with all 16 clubs competing in the NRL Auckland Nines at Eden Park" on Feb. 15-16. Winners "will walk away" with about A$450,000 while teams "will be guaranteed a minimum" of A$90,000. Clubs "must provide at least one of their five highest-paid players in their squad of 16, which will include at least 12 players from the club's top-25 squad" (BRISBANE TIMES, 9/4). In Sydney, Stuart Honeysett reported the teams "will be split into pools of four" with the top eight advancing to the quarterfinals, followed by semifinals and a final Games "will consist of two halves of nine minutes." Australia coach Tim Sheens "has been drafted in to help with rule changes." Several NRL players, including Paul Gallen, Todd Carney, Sam Thaiday, Willie Mason, Anthony Watmough, Greg Bird and Robbie Farah, "have flagged their interest to play in the tournament" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 9/4).
AUCKLAND SHOWCASE: In Auckland, Steve Deane reported Auckland Mayor Len Brown announced that the "multimillion-dollar NRL Nines tournament will be a feature of the city's summer for at least the next five years." Brown: "Auckland has secured a five-year partnership with the NRL to host an annual Nines tournament. It's the first time the 16 clubs of the NRL have played in one place at the one time." While "a carnival atmosphere akin to Wellington's Sevens tournament is expected, the games will have a serious edge." NRL Head of Football Todd Greenberg: "Make no mistake, the 16 teams will be there to win" (NEW ZEALAND HERALD, 9/4).
BIG MONEY: In Melbourne, Nick Smart reported Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy says the A$2M prize pie on offer "will not be enough for his galaxy of stars to play in the inaugural NRL Auckland Nines." Bellamy "has made no secret of his fear the season is getting longer every year." Bellamy: "There’s a few rules and regulations here we have to abide by and I guess everyone has to abide by. We will certainly do that, but I don't think you will see too many of our big guns playing in that" (HERALD SUN, 9/5).