So how good did the Auckland Nines turn out to be?
If unpredictability is a prerequisite of a tournament, we certainly got it as North Queensland Cowboys won their first ever bit of silverware, beating Brisbane Broncos in an all-Queensland final.
If speed and skill is another important ingredient for a sporting contest, the weekend had it in spades, and, with each game coming in easy to digest bite-size pieces, there was time to draw breath and reflect on some stunning passages of play at the end of each game, something you are not always able to do in the 80-minute, 13-a-side version.
The Nines format also closely resembled full-on Rugby League, unlike seven-a-side, which allows too much space on the field and widely differing tactics.
We also had a packed out stadium on both days, providing a marvellous spectacle for the television and a wonderful atmosphere for those lucky enough to be in the ground. Of course the stunning sunny weather helped the feelgood factor, but we shouldn’t be ashamed to use that to our advantage.
As we pointed out last week the Auckland tourist organisation pumped millions of dollars into the Nines, and on the evidence of the weekend they got their money’s worth. And what city anywhere in the UK or in Australasia would not jump at the chance to stage such a vibrant and colourful tournament if they have a big enough stadium within their boundaries?
We hope the marketing departments of the NRL and the RFL are already, as we speak, editing a promotional video with footage from the Auckland Nines.
With news that Rugby League Nines could be associated with the 2018 Commonwealth Games, should an exhibition tournament at this summer’s Games in Glasgow impress, the Auckland Nines has confirmed to us that the Magic Weekend of 2015 should be a Super League Nines tournament, with sufficient prize money to ensure our top players compete.
Nines can, and will, sell Rugby League to a sporting public that is evidently slow to appreciate the full-blown game. As an aid to spreading Rugby League, we can’t think of a better vehicle.
League Express, Upfront Editorial column, first published Mon 17th Feb 2014. Click here to get League Express online.
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