The List: Five sport innovations that (kind of) worked

By Steven Holloway

Rugby league legend Willie Mason promoting the Auckland Nines. Photo / File.
Rugby league legend Willie Mason promoting the Auckland Nines. Photo / File.

After nearly two decades in sporting limbo, the rugby league nines are back.

The short-form concept of rugby league last attracted international attention in 1996-97 when New Zealand won back-to-back Super League World Nines titles.

But after two exciting tournaments featuring the likes of Sean Hoppe, John Kirwan and Stephen Kearney, the nines concept was abandoned as the National Rugby League was created.

Now the nines are back. And if this weekend's sold out competition is any indication of public opinion, Dean Lonergan and co could be onto a winner.

Nzherald.co.nz grades four other 'sports innovations' that have become permanent fixtures on our annual landscape.

Sevens
Grade: A-

If acceptance into the Olympics is the true mark of a sport 'making it', then sevens rugby has been an unqualified success.

The variant of rugby was created in Scotland in 1883, but it wasn't until 1976 that it gained international traction on the back of the Hong Kong Sevens. The Rugby World Cup Sevens, Dubai Sevens and Wellington Sevens all soon followed as the game flourished in popularity for its on-field excitement and off-field party vibe.

The Wellington Sevens tournament has been an unparalleled success with Kiwi fans and sells out every year with massive media exposure, though little interest is invested in the All Black Sevens sides when they play overseas.

The icing on the cake for the sevens brand was acceptance into the 2016 Summer Olympics. The chance to win gold will likely inspire some of rugby's best players to temporarily switch to the short-form of the game and the hype surrounding one of New Zealand's best medal chances will escalate to all new levels.

Lingerie football
Grade: C

Originally created with the lecherous tagline of 'True Fantasy Football', the Legends Football League has in recent years taken on a level of credibility.

Having evolved from the Lingerie Bowl, a halftime television event during the Super Bowl, the LFL now boasts 12 teams in the United States and features fully professional athletes.

The outfits are still skimpy - despite claims that lingerie was swapped for 'performance apparel' - and the teams names are still bawdy - with the Las Vegas Sin and Los Angeles Temptation forming one of the competition's best rivalries.

But, according to some sports analysts and economists, the LFL is the fastest-growing sports league in the United States. The popularity is explainable, with the games fast-paced and high-scoring, separating the wheat of football from the chaff of the NFL - constant stoppages, commercials and excessive hype.

Global off-shoots have sprouted up in Canada and Australia, with LFL Europa planned to launch this year. And an LFL World Bowl - featuring the champions of the four leagues - has been mooted to take place every four years, just like the Olympics.

Short form cricket:
Grade: B

In 1997 former New Zealand cricket great Martin Crowe invented Cricket Max. With "Max" zones, free-hits and four stumps, the ten-over game quickly piqued the interest of New Zealand's cricket fans. But just as soon, they were over it.

The now defunct gimmicky format was surpassed by Twenty20 cricket in 2003 and now sits alongside tests and One Day Internationals as a legitimate contest to get excited about.

But no one takes it too seriously. Corporate catches, booming sixes and fast bowling are respected more than traditional averages and the short form is still battling to achieve acceptance among cricket's traditionalists. But with attention spans seemingly getting shorter by the month, its best days may still be to come.

Fast5 Netball:
Grade: C

In 2009 netball decided it needed a facelift. The International Federation of Netball Development created FastNet, a design to make games faster and more television friendly, with the ultimate aim of raising the sport's profile and attracting more spectators and greater sponsorship.

The idea was slow to take hold. Early criticism centred on the rules - it was thought they didn't offer enough points of difference from the traditional form of the game and teams could win the tournament without really embracing any of the new rules.

In 2012 Fastnet became Fast5 and the rules were radically overhauled, cutting down the number of players in a team to five and adding in extra scoring zones to allow for a faster, more unstructured style of game and the possibility of more upset results with the introduction of three and two-point shots.

The Kiwi public at large ate up the 'Gangnam Style' court entrances and rapid-fire entertainment and the Fast5 netball World Series booked itself a regular spot in the sports annual calender.

But every time Laura Langman and co make their grand entry to a 'World Series' tournament dancing to 'the hot new track of the summer' a netball traditionalist weeps.

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf01 at 28 Nov 2014 21:57:25 Processing Time: 454ms