Year one of the Brisbane Global Tens wasn't exactly a roaring success. Year two represents something of a fresh start.
Last year the New Zealand build-up was largely overshadowed by controversy. Using Damian McKenzie, Jerome Kaino and Israel Dagg in marketing campaigns, despite the high-profile trio not featuring on the field, did not help early perceptions.
Come kickoff, a 40 degree heatwave hit Brisbane making playing conditions extremely challenging and half of Suncorp Stadium intolerable for fans to sit in.
No wonder the event is thought to have initially lost money.
This time, the lead-in to the second installment of the four-year contract has been much smoother.
Organisers met early with New Zealand Rugby and the Super franchises to establish who would be available, avoiding a repeat of last year's fallout. Given the timing of the event, the 12-week conditioning window still precludes most All Blacks from participating.
Julian Savea and Liam Messam, two figures signed to promote this year's event, will play influential on-field roles for the Hurricanes and Chiefs.
Akira Ioane, Tim Nanai-Williams and Conrad Smith's Pau team that includes six other former All Blacks also appeal. Then there's the novelty interest in whether former stars Carlos Spencer and Carl Hayman keep up with the next generation.
Duco Events is a resilient promotional company well versed in absorbing public and financial hits only to bounce back. Just look at how they guided Joseph Parker, the Kiwi heavyweight on the cusp of banking over $12 million from his title fight with British champion Anthony Joshua.
That said, for the potential longevity of this tournament, this year must go better than last.
"You learn a lot from the first year of running an event and certainly we had some teething problems," Duco Australia chief executive Rachael Carroll admits.
With around $1.8 million pumped into the tournament, the attraction with this event is not difficult to see. All 12 teams have costs covered. This includes flights, accommodation and food for squads of up to 40. Each team then receives a fee, allowing some to tack on other preseason games, and still return home with money in the bank.
On the field the product is often better than what sevens produces. Set piece is more relevant, tactical kicking played a big role last year, and with three more players mistakes are not always as crippling.
Interestingly, Carroll cited research that said the event struck a chord with Kiwis in year one. Five of the six favoured teams by those who attended were from New Zealand, with locals the Reds coming in third. Carroll said strong viewership numbers were also recorded in New Zealand.
"This tournament is not just about how many All Blacks are playing. We certainly want some, and we've got some. But it's also about the up-and-comers. We saw Jordie Barrett play last year. He wasn't one of the big names when he took the field but he went on to have a pretty stellar 2017."
While crowds last year appeared dire, Carroll said around 23,000 attended each day. This year was tracking to pull similar numbers with a shift to day-night which should minimise the toll of players having to back-up in sweltering conditions.
Temperatures are expected to range between 29 and 33 degrees celsius during the day.
"What you saw on camera was terrible because of the heat issue we had with the eastern stand. That was completely empty because we relocated every single person who had spent quite a bit of money on platinum tickets because it was unbearable. There was no way someone could sit there for longer than five minutes so we moved them into the shade.
"We won't have that issue this year so it will have a much fuller feel on camera."
In terms of favourites for the title, it will probably be who places genuine context and meaning around performing rather than developing emerging prospects and escaping with no major injuries.
The Chiefs won the inaugural event after being inspired to pay tribute to former All Blacks loose forward Sione Lauaki, who lost his battle with a kidney disease aged 35.
On paper, Colin Cooper has named another strong squad. Shaun Stevenson starred here last year and is sure to again thrive with the extra time and space.
The Blues appear to have an easy pool and could do with some early-season momentum.
Elsewhere, Robbie Deans' Panasonic Wild Knights caused a few upsets last year and could be a surprise package.
Blues, Rebels, Reds, Wild Knights
Chiefs, Highlanders, Waratahs, Pau
Brumbies, Crusaders, Hurricanes, Fiji
Liam Napier travelled to Brisbane courtesy of Duco Events.
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