Radio Sport rugby league commentator Dale Budge gives his views on the NRL Nines.
Phil Gould recently blocked me on Twitter for daring to disagree with him about NRL expansion but I totally agree with his recent assessment of the NRL Nines.
His criticism of the Duco-run event is on the money. Every point he raised about the annual two-day tournament was accurate in my opinion.
I have enjoyed the spectacle the Nines has provided over the past three years in the same way I used to enjoy a Will Ferrell movie - it was silly but entertaining.
Thankfully I've grown out of the Ferrell movies (either that or they have become even more stupid over time) but I still look forward to the Nines despite the total pointlessness of them.
It is a chance to see some of the teams' new recruits or up-and-coming stars, it is fast-paced action and the party atmosphere adds to the product. The crowds have supported the concept and the general feeling amongst fans is that the Nines gets the thumbs-up. I imagine those were the very goals the NRL and promoters had when coming up with the concept in the first place so it has probably hit the mark.
Having said all that - the concept of nines football really does little to help teams prepare for the arduous season ahead. Gould is correct in his thinking that it is a totally different game to regular 13-a-side footy. Injuries are an issue and while they may not occur at any greater rate than traditional pre-season fixtures the point the organisers can't escape from is that they are done in a festival event where teams are forced to play their players for someone else's gain.
When you throw in the All Stars Game, the World Club Challenge (which has expanded in the past couple of years to include three rather than just one team from the NRL) as well as traditional trial games the pre-season has become very congested - all of this at a time when players are constantly talking about burn-out.
The other thing that should be a clear indicator this event is about entertainment rather than sport is the inclusion of former players like Ruben Wiki, Ken Nagas or Brad Fittler. Wiki might well be as fit as ever and he remains one of my favourite all-time players, but the 44-year-old is a former player for a reason. Their apperance does little for the credibility of the sporting aspect to the event.
The game needs to weigh-up the needs of the fans to the needs of players and the impact on the bottom line. Surely there isn't a need for an All Stars Game, a World Club Challenge and the NRL Nines every year with the same players taking part in each. Whether a rotation system could work or the need for something to give way to others needs serious consideration.