The NRL Nines are likely to return to Auckland at some stage in the future - and let's hope they do.

Today's confirmation from the NRL that the 2018 edition would be cancelled, due to concerns over player workload, was no surprise.

It had been signalled for a while, which is why - as revealed in Herald on Sunday last week - the Warriors and Auckland Council's event arm Ateed have been working on plans to bring an NRL double header to Auckland next year.

Read more: Double header set to replace Nines


Doubts over the 2018 Nines began to surface in February, when the NRL refused to give assurances about the contracted fifth year going ahead in Auckland.

And while player welfare is a genuine issue, there were also worries over event fatigue, after this year's crowd were down significantly on previous attendances.

Event promoter Duco would also have been wary of taking a bath on next year's event, especially if no World Cup players were involved.

But the Nines will be back in 2019, most likely in Perth, as the NRL see the short form event as a vital development tool.

That might be the most important legacy of Duco's venture into the unknown. League has struggled to assert itself on the global stage but Nines could be the way forward, especially for lesser nations that don't have the resources and player depth to compete at 13-a-side level. It's also easy to follow and spectator friendly.

And if the NRL came back to Auckland - maybe for a two year stint in the mid 2020s - it would probably work again, especially with the novelty value. It might not attract almost 100,000 across two days to Eden Park like 2014, but it would find a natural equilibrium.

And though it is easy to be cynical about the event, and especially Duco, the impact of the Nines here can't be underestimated. It put league on the map, at a time of year where it normally takes second fiddle to cricket and rugby. The NRL season launch was here in 2015 and having all 16 NRL clubs here for most of a week each year was nirvana for league fans. There were club visits and unprecedented access to the game's heroes.

The event also accelerated the demise of the Wellington Sevens, ripping a huge hole in its crowds in 2014 and 2015. And it also helped to build a strong relationship between Ateed, the NRL and the Warriors.

That enhanced relationship means that the historic double header is likely to go ahead in Auckland next year. The venture is being driven by the Warriors, but couldn't happen without ATEED support.

Negotiations are at an advanced stage and the weekend is close to being confirmed, in the first half of next season.