While the Rugby League season kicked off in superb style this weekend, there was also a carnival of Rugby League going on in New Zealand.
The Aukland Nines took place at the weekend, with the stars from all the NRL teams taking part in the weekend’s action.
For those of you that haven’t been introduced to it, the competition sees all 16 teams take part in a knockout tournament. Most Rugby League rules apply, however, as the name of the competition suggests, it is a nine-a-side competition, as opposed to the traditional 13-man game. Matches are also 18 minutes long, split into two nine-minute halves.
All 31 matches took place at New Zealand’s Eden Park over a two-day period, with the eventual winners, Parramatta Eels, picking up $370,000 NZ dollars (£168,800).
It is an event that draws in around 90,000 spectators and is a major weekend on Australia’s Rugby League calendar. This year, many people from these shores got a glimpse of the action, with television coverage being broadcast on Premier Sports.
It is has made many question why we don’t have an equivalent in Super League, given its success and appeal on the other side of the globe.
Of course, there are many reasons why adding it to our diary would be worthwhile. If the RFL could replicate the success achieved in the NRL, the event would be beneficial both financially and from a publicity standpoint. Additionally, the ability to have a different, exciting take on Rugby League – the games tend to be fast, flowing and bring out the best in some of the players, would also be a welcome boost to an already enthralling Super League season.
Yet the major problem would be finding a place for it on the calendar. The season is already eight months long with many teams playing 30 games a year, and that’s before pre-season friendlies. Another issue, of course, is the injury toll, with numerous NRL coaches bemoaning the extent the of damage caused over the weekend.
One alternative would be to add a Nines competition to replace the Magic Weekend. Doing so would make the fixture list fair, rather than having certain teams play three times in the regular season while also bringing all of the teams together for a spectacle like the Magic Weekend does so well. However with the magnitude of success the Magic Weekend has delivered, it’s hard to imagine that concept will be dropped any time soon.