2014 NRL Auckland 9s
2014 NRL Auckland 9s

By Matthew Brown, Date: 17/2/14

Auckland 9s, Summers 9s and Hybrid match, expanding World Club Challenge, Indigenous All Stars and extending Grand Final week like the Super Bowl! These are some of the ideas which the NRL have thrown out there since the very successful Auckland 9s finished yesterday. This blog will explain the pros and cons of these proposed ideas latter in the piece, first to the Auckland 9s!

Auckland 9s

89 thousand fans attended the two day carnival event at the legendary Eden Park (home of NZ’s premier RU team!). There were highs and seemingly higher highs with great RL played, quick plays completed and fans dressing up for the debut of the event! Legends such as Brad ‘Freddy’ Fittler and Steve Menzies also shone at the showpiece event and did not disappoint the crowds (quite literally). The event ended on a special high because it ended in the NQ Cowboys winning their first silverware since coming into existence in 1995!

The success wasn’t only shown on the field but off it as well, NRL clubs helped to bond with local NZ Rugby League clubs and fans leading up to the event itself. Local Auckland politicians and officials have hailed it a great success for the City of Auckland. Not to mention that International teams (such as teams from the Super League) have expressed interest in joining the competition in 2015! Even David Smith (NRL CEO) has expressed how well the tournament was run and went from an NRL point of view!

Overall it seems that the whole event was a raging success and has created much hype of the potential of RL 9s to further its appeal to the world! If there was ever a great way to introduce new fans to the sport, 9s is a fantastic way to do it!
If you missed any of the action try this link; http://www.youtube.com/user/NRL/videos

NRL expansion ideas, good or bad?
Out of the success of the Auckland 9s, there have been several ideas mooted for the NRL to consider. Some of them include;
• Expansion of Auckland 9s- Including SL clubs in the picture.
• Summers 9s and Hybrid match- Running 9s over the summer and possible Hybrid matches against RU opponents.
• Expanding World Club Challenge- Six teams from NRL and SL battle each other for the World Club Challenge.
• Indigenous All Stars- Planning to be re-introduced in 2015.
• Extending Grand Final week like the Super Bowl- Having events over two weeks leading up to NRL grand final including the All Stars game.

Positives

Now there are some merits to these ideas. Expanding the WCC and Auckland 9s can bring new viewers to the event and hence make more Money. If the NRL can get the balance right and plan both competitions which includes both NRL and SL teams then that could help improve the image of the WCC and 9s on a more global scale.

Extending the Grand Final week could build more excitement to Grand Final day as well! If the All Stars game was played leading up to the NRL Grand Final (without players from both Grand Final teams) then that could be a great success!

Negatives

Although expanding the WCC and Auckland 9s can be a success, it can also be a team manager’s nightmare. With the World Club Challenge and Auckland 9s being played around the same time, one must think how the winners of each competition could play each other without damaging the credibility of either competition. Add in the possibility of the All Stars returning in 2015 and you have 3 events which could be very hard to plan! How could a side (example Roosters) have players in the All Stars game, Auckland 9s and then have to back up for the WCC (especially if it was held in England!). Plus with the Cricket World Cup occurring in February 2015 in Australia/NZ, this will further problems!

The Summer 9s competition and Hybrid came has serious problems!
1. Involving ourselves with other codes
2. Further increases players’ workload.
3. Interrupts Internationals at the end of the year!

We as a code SHOULD NOT involve ourselves with other sports! These hybrid games in theory sound alright, but the success of the NRL Auckland 9s shows that we as a sport do not have to piggyback on RU to gain international success! Not to mention also that another 6 weeks of footy could put further unrest on the players over the summer months!

Most importantly however, it will most likely intrude on Internationals! We as a sport are very lucky to have two fully professional competitions start and finish at similar times of the year to allow internationals to be played in October and November! Starting up Summer 9s will NO DOUBT call on players to not play in Internationals. International footy should be held in as high regard as playing in an important game for your club! International footy should not be sacrificed for a Summer 9s competition!

The Verdict?

Here is what I believe should happen;
• Auckland 9s in Late January- Have the Auckland 9s in late January (around Australia Day or there about). Keep it ONLY for NRL teams, however each side can only include 3 marquee players (so for example if the Warriors played, they could only pick 3 players such as Tomkins, Mateo and Rapira), the rest of the players would be QLD/NSW/Toyota Cup players. This will help with player fatigue and give a chance for rising younger players.
• World Club Challenge over 2 weekends- 15/16th and 22nd/23rd of Feb, plus a final 4 days later on the Thursday night. The six teams (3 from NRL and 3 from SL) play two out of the three opposing competition winners. The teams with the best overall points from their games play the best team from the other competition 3 or 4 days later.
• Grand Final Week in September (plus All Star Game) – This could be a whole week devoted to the NRL grand final. During this week all players not chosen for the NRL could play in Brisbane and then have celebrations throughout the week leading up to the big game come Sunday!
• Summers 9s, December 16th until January 20th. – I’m a bit unsure about this one. I’d definitely get rid of the ‘Hybrid Match’ because I see no benefit for either the NRL or RL. If there was going to be a Summer 9s competition I’d do it either,
– allow international teams to compete (they don’t have to use NRL players)
– or creating something similar to the Big Bash League. Basically each city in Australia would have a team (e.g. Sydney Speed, Melbourne Crushers, Perth Pirates etc) and play fixtures throughout Australia. Each weekend could be a new area such as Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland etc and the team with the most points at the end of the competition wins!

I believe that having a schedule like this could help expand the NRL brand and increase awareness of the 9s without damaging players or impacting on International RL!

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