No Auck­land Nines next year

Central Leader - - BODY CARE - STAFF REPORTER

The NRL has sus­pended the Auck­land Nines in 2018 in a bid to ease the work­load on play­ers fol­low­ing this year’s Rugby League World Cup.

NRL chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer An­drew Abdo in­sisted the Nines still had a long-term fu­ture on the cal­en­dar, al­though the tour­na­ment is un­likely to be held in Auck­land when it re­turns.

In­tro­duced by Duco Events in 2014, the con­cept was ini­tially a huge suc­cess but its pop­u­lar­ity had waned as the nov­elty fac­tor wore off.

The Eden Park tour­na­ment had been un­der a cloud af­ter a drop in this year’s ticket sales.

Duco had pre­vi­ously called for the event to be moved to Aus­tralia and the NRL said there is ev­ery chance that would hap­pen.

The NRL were seek­ing ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est from cities in­ter­ested in host­ing the tour­na­ment, but Abdo did add that there was a strong chance the Nines would re­turn to New Zealand in the fu­ture ro­ta­tion.

The ap­peal of the Nines was also hurt by the at­ti­tude of some NRL coaches, who were re­luc­tant to field their best play­ers due to the risk of in­jury be­fore the start of the sea­son.

With the World Cup run­ning un­til De­cem­ber 2, the gov­ern­ing body agreed that it was not vi­able to ask elite play­ers to back up for the Nines in early 2018 ahead of the next NRL sea­son.

The same ap­plies for the All Stars game in the pre-sea­son, which will also not be held in 2018 but will re­turn in 2019.

Last week, Duco chief Dean Lon­er­gan took aim at the War­riors for rest­ing sev­eral stars and blamed them for the tour­na­ment’s demise.

Skip­per Roger Tuiv­asa-Sheck was kept on ice as he re­turned from a se­ri­ous knee in­jury, while a mi­nor groin prob­lem pre­vented Shaun John­son from play­ing a game.

As a re­sult, the home team lost all three pool matches to miss the knock­out stage for the first time.

‘‘Would it have changed the crowds if the War­riors had taken it se­ri­ously? I don’t know and I don’t think so but it cer­tainly im­pacted on what hap­pened go­ing for­ward,’’ Lon­er­gan told Ra­dio Live.

‘‘They didn’t play their best pos­si­ble team, which would have been nice if they had and it would have been nice if they had taken it se­ri­ously rather than say­ing we don’t care about the Nines, we care about the rest of the sea­son.’’

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