Auckland Nines moved to start of NRL season
The Auckland Nines looks set to be the first event each season in the NRL calendar for the foreseeable future.
The announcement was made today for next year's event at Eden Park, which will take place on January 31 and February 1.
This year the tournament was held in the middle of the pre-season window and after spending time analysing data and reviewing the event, the NRL's head of football, Todd Greenberg, says they now want to avoid players having to switch between the two forms of the game.
''We looked at great length at the GPS data from the clubs on player workload,'' Greenberg told Fairfax Media.
''We looked at a lot of injury surveillance data through the clubs and the coaches and one of the strong recommendations from coaches was that we wanted to play the Nines as the first event of pre-season, so that they didn't have to chop and change between 13-a-side and nines.
''We're very comfortable with our pre-season schedule into 2015, so there are a lot of excited people ready to play in this one.''
While the NRL and Auckland Nines organisers were forced to have the tournament earlier in the calendar this year, because of the Cricket World Cup, Greenberg says they want to keep it as something that happens late January/ early February.
''In a perfect world it will be, but what we'll do is assess it on the information that comes back to us next year again and we'll make decisions based on merit,'' he said.
''But at the moment we're really happy with where it's at.''
NRL clubs must still pick one of their top five players in their squad for the Nines, plus at least 12 from their top 25 list of players, but squad sizes have been increased from 16 to 18.
It was suggested recently that the tournament would be played over three days to alleviate the burden on players, but the NRL decided bigger squads was the route to go down.
''We assessed a range of things on the back of last year's debrief and we ultimately made the decision that we'll increase the squads by two, to effectively give every club two full teams of nine, which allows them to manage the workloads of players better and we kept it at the two days,'' Greenberg said.
''In the second day we'll also have slightly longer gaps when we hit the finals series, just to allow those clubs slightly more recovery.''