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

NRL Nines may be swapped for rugby Tens

It's poultry emotion as the Roosters celebrate their Nines win against the Panthers yesterday. Photo / Brett Phibbs
It's poultry emotion as the Roosters celebrate their Nines win against the Panthers yesterday. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The Rugby Tens and the NRL Nines could be rotated next year. As questions hover over the future of the Nines event in Auckland, there is a possibility that the two festival oval ball events could switch cities.

The Herald understands this option is on the table for major stakeholders to consider.

In a related matter, Auckland Council's major events arm Ateed will also consider a bid for a Sevens event, if Wellington decides they no longer want to host the tournament.

A shift between the NRL Nines and the Global Tens might make sense.

There is still some interest in the Nines in Auckland, and the atmosphere yesterday was better than expected, given the Warriors were out of contention.

But event fatigue is a factor and the declining attendances over the past four years have reflected this.

Warriors CEO Jim Doyle and Cowboys star Johnathan Thurston were among several high profile names yesterday to call for the Nines to be moved from Auckland.

"It's a great way to kick off the year," said Thurston. "[But] I'm pretty disappointed at the turn-out of the crowd. If that's the type of crowd that's going to show up, I reckon we should be taking it elsewhere."

League-mad Queensland might revitalise the tournament.

The Global 10s, which will be staged for the first time next week in Brisbane, could also work in New Zealand. Rugby has a much greater profile in this country than Queensland, where the 15-man code ranks below league and the AFL.

"Anything's possible," said Duco chief executive Dean Lonergan. "We would like to keep the status quo but it is a very fluid situation and things can change quickly. Of course we still want to be involved in the Nines and we need to look at what the NRL wants, and what Ateed wants."

Lonergan added Duco were currently focused on delivering the NRL Nines and the Tens. Thoughts about the future were on the backburner.

Ateed chief executive Brett O'Riley was also keeping an open mind, emphasising their strong relationship with the NRL. "We've just seen another successful weekend here and we hope there will be more major league events in Auckland," he said. "We are looking forward to the future and other opportunities for world-class league in the city.

Apart from the Nines, O'Riley said other possibilities could include State of Origin, test matches and NRL double headers in Auckland.

On another note, O'Riley also confirmed Auckland could be interested in hosting the New Zealand leg of the World Rugby Sevens, but only if Wellington no longer wanted it.

"If Wellington didn't want it and it went to an open bid process then we would be keen to look at it," said O'Riley. "But that would occur only if Wellington didn't want to continue."

The Sydney Roosters became the fourth team to lift the Nines trophy, trumping the Panthers 10-8 in a thrilling final yesterday at Eden Park.

Penrith had the chance to send the match to extra time, after a late Nathan Cleary try. But the conversion went wide, sealing an unlikely triumph for the Bondi-based team.

The Roosters rode their luck all day. They squeezed past the Broncos 15-14 in the quarter-finals before scoring a length of the field try with less than a minute on the clock to beat the Storm in their semifinal.

The Warriors bowed out with a whimper yesterday, losing 14-10 to the Dragons to go out winless.

- NZ Herald

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