Should Nines be Rugby League’s Reserves Competition?

League Express editor Martyn Sadler suggests that the shortened form of the game would be a good alternative to a Reserve Grade competition.

Last year I had a meeting with the then RFL director Roger Draper about a number of issues that needed to be discussed.

Roger was looking for ideas about creating new Rugby League properties that would have commercial and spectator potential.

One idea I put forward was to create a Nines competition for Super League, to be played by all the clubs in midweek during the summer months.

For me the prospect of a Nines competition has advantages over a more conventional Reserves competition and I’m confident it could gain some traction.

For example, given that most Nines matches last only 20 minutes, it would be perfectly possible for one venue to stage three matches on any particular evening.

The games could be played primarily by players who are not selected for their club’s first team on the preceding weekend.

It would ensure that all the members of Super League squads were having regular match practice, and of course, clubs will need fewer players to fill a Nines squad than they would to run a Reserves team.

The games could be played on midweek evenings with six clubs attending each event, with perhaps one event west of the Pennines and one east of the Pennines, while not forgetting occasional events in Perpignan.

The venues would rotate between the Super League clubs and, with six clubs involved at each venue, I think there would be scope for the tournament, if well promoted, to draw significant support.

Given that we are supposed to be having a Nines World Cup in 2019 or thereabouts, it would also be a great way for our players to develop their skills in that version of the game.

At the time Roger seemed very enthusiastic about the idea, but I didn’t hear any more about it and now he’s departed from the RFL.

It would be a shame if the idea departed with him.

Martyn Sadler writes his ‘Talking Rugby League’ column every Monday in League Express. This article is an expanded version of part of his column published on Monday 29 January.