Twenty-five years ago rugby league got a pre-season makeover with the introduction of the World Rugby League seven-a-side tournament played mostly in Sydney with a cameo performance in Brisbane.
Manly won three of the twelve tournaments held between 1988 and 2004. Newcastle and Parramatta won the tournament twice.
In 2004 the sevens were wiped from the NRL schedule with lower than expected crowd figures and after some coaches, Steve Folkes in particular, thought the event put players at risk of injury.
Season 2014 will see the re-introduction of the concept, this time with a nine-a-side competition to be played in Auckland on February 15-16.
It’s great that some of the top-line players like Todd Carney and Robbie Farah have indicated their interest in playing the tournament.
I hope this tournament gives the opportunity for some of the up-and-coming players to show off their talent. In particular some of the Penrith Panthers successful Toyota Cup side like Daniel Foster and Bryce Cartwright.
The concept could grow with the right ingredients. Broadcasters willing to show games live, the correct promotion through New Zealand media, and a generous cash prize.
And with the prize money totalling $2.6m NZ, this should give encouragement for clubs to send competitive teams to the competition.
The Auckland Nines draw has been released by the National Rugby League and is as follows:
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 15
Game 1. Sharks v Knights – 12.35pm (local time)
Game 2. Tigers v Titans – 1pm
Game 3. Roosters v Eels – 1.25pm
Game 4. Broncos v Bulldogs – 1.50pm
Game 5. Warriors v Raiders – 2.25pm
Game 6. Sea Eagles v Cowboys – 2.50pm
Game 7. Storm v Panthers – 3.15pm
Game 8. Rabbitohs v Dragons – 3.40pm
Game 9. Sharks v Tigers – 4.20pm
Game 10. Knights v Titans – 4.45pm
Game 11. Roosters v Broncos – 5.10pm
Game 12. Eels v Bulldogs – 5.35pm
Game 13. Warriors v Sea Eagles – 6.10pm
Game 14. Raiders v Cowboys – 6.35pm
Game 15. Storm v Rabbitohs – 7pm
Game 16. Panthers v Dragons – 7.25pm
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 16
Game 17. Sharks v Titans – 12pm
Game 18. Knights v Tigers – 12.25pm
Game 19. Roosters v Bulldogs – 12.50pm
Game 20. Eels v Broncos – 1.15pm
Game 21. Warriors v Cowboys – 1.45pm
Game 22. Raiders v Sea Eagles – 2.10pm
Game 23. Storm v Dragons – 2.35pm
Game 24. Panthers v Rabbitohs – 3pm
1st Quarter-Final – 3.30pm
2nd Quarter-Final – 3.55pm
3rd Quarter-Final – 4.20pm
4th Quarter-Final – 4.45pm
1st Semi-Final – 5.45pm
2nd Semi-Final – 6.10pm
Final – 7.30pm