Cameron Smith joins critics of nines league

Last updated 14:29 19/02/2013

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Australia captain Cameron Smith has joined a host of sceptics over plans to start next year's NRL season with a multi-million-dollar nine-a-side tournament in  Auckland.

Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett, Penrith general manager Phil  Gould, Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson and South Sydney mentor  Michael Maguire have all spoken out against the idea in the lead-up  to a vote of club CEOs in Sydney on Wednesday.

Speaking at a media conference in Leeds to promote Friday's World Club Challenge, Smith tried to be diplomatic but left no-one in doubt about where he stood on the issue of bringing back Nines  and an expanded World Club Challenge after a 17-year break for both  concepts.

''I'm not too sure - I think it's a pretty touchy subject at the moment, particularly in Australia,'' Smith said.

''Someone told me a couple of weeks ago that if I stay fit and  I'm playing most games, I'll be close to playing 40 matches this  year.

It's hard. I believe the World Cup final is on the 30th of November.

''If you're involved in that game and you get your seven-weeks off-season that you're meant to get from each club, you're coming back at the start of February.

''We've got to be careful trying to add in all these new  competitions and new matches because the way the game is going at  the moment in the NRL and the Super League it's getting faster and  faster, guys are getting bigger and stronger and it's taking its  toll on players.

''If you want to see the elite players in the game for a long time, then I don't think you want to be tampering too much with workloads and adding games here and there.

''If the Nines are introduced, something else has to give.

Maybe the indigenous game (NRL All Stars v Indigenous All Stars).''But the All Star game that we play, it's a great concept and all the players down in Australia love being part of that.

''You just can't keep adding games onto the season. It's too much to ask of the players and I think at the moment, we've got a pretty good schedule now.''

But rival captain Kevin Sinfield said expanding the WCC to six teams in 2015 would be no extra demand on individual players.

''I think it's a great concept and it could take us to any part of the world and sell rugby league,'' the golden boot holder said.

''I'm all for it.''

Leeds fullback Zac Hardaker (broken thumb) is out of Friday's 20,400-sellout World Club Challenge clash with Smith's Melbourne Storm, as is prop Ryan Bailey (knee).

But centre Brett Delaney (hamstring) has been passed fit and winger Joe Vickery (ankle) could make a surprise comeback after being ruled out a fortnight  ago for six weeks.

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- AAP

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