Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Michael Burgess: Auckland right fit as Nines host

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The NRL Nines will survive as a concept and the recipe seems right for it to stay in Auckland beyond the five-year deal finishing in 2018. Photo / Greg Bowker
The NRL Nines will survive as a concept and the recipe seems right for it to stay in Auckland beyond the five-year deal finishing in 2018. Photo / Greg Bowker

The NRL Nines will survive as a concept and the recipe seems right for it to stay in Auckland beyond the five-year deal finishing in 2018.

There will always be naysayers, and others in Auckland say it has lost its novelty value, doesn't have enough stars and depends too much on the Warriors.

But you don't know what you've got until it's gone. The tournament is vital for league in this country, creating an invaluable footprint for the sport that still lives in the shadow of rugby. It puts the game on the map for the weekend, and allows local league fans to exhibit their tribal tendencies, as most support the Warriors and another team.

And the formula between sport and fun is just about right. There were few alcohol-related incidents across the weekend and most fans seem to attend for the action on the field, unlike the Wellington Sevens.

And does it really matter if all the stars don't attend? There are still enough recognisable names and plenty of talented youngsters.

Decision makers will also note the tournament continues to populate Eden Park across two days.

The crowd wasn't at the levels of 2014 but the numbers would compare favourably with what the Blues drew across all of last season.

But for the NRL, Auckland also makes perfect sense. It's hard to imagine it working as well in Sydney or Brisbane. Sydney is already saturated with league, and folk in the Queensland capital are interested only in the Broncos.

Tweaks are needed. Some teams continue to abuse the spirit of the format, with the Roosters bringing a particularly weak squad this year. And the 18-man roster could be extended by four players to allow for injuries and fatigue.

But as a spectacle, it's hard to beat, and those who were there yesterday when Shaun Johnson produced his miracle play to alter the Warriors' destiny won't forget it in a hurry. In terms of an event life cycle, it's still at the beginning of the curve.

- NZ Herald

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Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday. He was named the 2013 New Zealand football writer of the year and was a finalist in the Sports Reporter of the year at the 2014 Canon Media Awards.

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