Auckland Nines kicks off, big crowd amped

02:59, Feb 15 2014
Fans arrive at Auckland Nines
GLADIATORS: These fans - complete with floppy cassis helmets - are ready for a big day.
Fans arrive at Auckland Nines
FANS ARRIVE: Behind you!
Fans arrive at Auckland Nines
COPS & ROBBERS: Since when did the 5-0 start wearing Puma?
Fans arrive at Auckland Nines
IN SEARCH OF THE HOLY GRAIL: Saint Reginald Reagan III is in the house.
Fans arrive at Auckland Nines
SNOW WHITE & CAPTAIN AMERICA: Marvel's really clutching at straws with this film mash-up.
Fans arrive at Auckland Nines
WHAT A WELCOME: The awesome Tu Matariki kapa haka group from Huntly performed during the opening ceremony.
Fans arrive at Auckland Nines
FLORA: Now those handy Warehouse laundry tubs just continue to delight us with their multi-purpose magic.
Fans arrive at Auckland Nines
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE: Wow, this bunch of mates must argue over footy a lot.
Fans arrive at Auckland Nines
INCOGNITO: They've actually chosen camo gear that matches the stadium seating - brava! - our eyes have slipped straight past them, but that's mainly due to the gorgeous bunny-eared princesses in the background.
Fans arrive at Auckland Nines
A PRINCESS AND ... Okay, she's a fairy princess, but what's he? A Christmas tree that's a major fan of Elton John? That's our best shot.
Fans arrive at Auckland Nines
MIGHTY MORPHERS: Oh wow, the speed skiers from Sochi have already made it back from Russia?
Fans arrive at Auckland Nines
CREEPY: It's Where's Wally with the fright-factor of Freddy Krueger.
Fans arrive at Auckland Nines
HEF & THE BUNNIES: ... And here they are up close.
Fans arrive at Auckland Nines
MINNIE MOUSE: These ladies have the idea with the umbrellas - there's a high of 24 in AKL today.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
AND THE CROWD GOES WILD: The Auckland crowd roars after Shaun Johnson's try in the Warriors first-round win. PS: Where's Waldo?
Fans arrive at Auckland Nines
LIKE, ZOINKS, MAN: Scooby's really buffed up since TV retirement.
Fans arrive at Auckland Nines
NABBED: One of the more memorable tackles of the day.
Fans arrive at Auckland Nines
HOPPING: A Rabbitohs fan.
Fans arrive at Auckland Nines
PACKED: Crowds during day two.
Fans arrive at Auckland Nines
WARRIORS: A family of fans.
Fans arrive at Auckland Nines
PRINTS: Fans during day two of the Auckland Nines.
Fans arrive at Auckland Nines
DAY OFF: Fans during day two of the Auckland Nines.
Fans arrive at Auckland Nines
ALL SMILES: Fans during day two of the Auckland Nines.
Fans arrive at Auckland Nines
KRYPTONITE BARRIER: Fans during day two of the Auckland Nines.
Fans arrive at Auckland Nines
ALL DOLLED UP: Fans during day two of the Auckland Nines.

New Zealand's newest sporting party has kicked off at Eden Park, with some of league's greatest players being welcomed onto Eden Park by a crowd dressed as pirates, pixies, cowboys and assorted cartoon characters.

Follow all the action on Stuff's live blog here

The Cronulla Sharks - featuring one of league's hardest men, Paul Gallen - kicked-off the NRL Auckland Nines when they faced off against the Wayne Bennett-coached Newcastle Knights shortly after 12.30pm.

On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
GET READY BOYS: Players are welcomed during the opening ceremony.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
HONGI: Isaac Luke is welcomed to the tourney.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
THINK FAST: Beau Scott of the Knights gets the ball past Todd Carney of the Sharks during the match between Cronulla Sharks and the Newcastle Knights. It wasn't enough though, the Sharks won 15-12.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
THE VICTORS: Wade Graham of the Sharks makes a break during their winning match against the Newcastle Knights.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
ROAR DAMPENED: James Gavet of the Tigers offloads during the match between West Tigers and the Gold Coast Titans, which the Titans won easily at 22-7.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
TRY TIME: David Mead of the Titans scores a try during the match between West Tigers and the Gold Coast Titans.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
REASON TO CELEBRATE: Kalifa Faifai Loa of the Titans celebrates scoring a try as teammate Paul Carter looks on during their winning match against the Tigers.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
RUN RADRADA RUN: The look of joy on Semi Radradra's face is priceless, and he's probably still beaming as the Eels beat the Roosters 18-11.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
BRAD'S BACK: 42-year-old coach Fittler made his on-field debut after 10 seasons, although his team lost its first game and post-game he said: "I felt better running out than I did walking back in."
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
VICTORS: Dale Copley of the Broncos dives over to score a try during the match between Brisbane Broncos and the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs. The Broncos took the game home easily at 20-4.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
WORTH THE MONEY: Sam Tomkins, one of the NZ Warrriors most high-profile signings to date, proved he was worth his salary today - playing a key part in three of the Warriors four tries against the Raiders - the Warriors winning easily at 25-14.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
MOVE ASIDE: Glen Fisiiahi makes a break during the Warriors win against the Raiders.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
SIDE STEP STAR: A key player in the Warriors win against the Raiders, Shaun Johnson stepped, dummied and crossed his way to try time at the five minute mark.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
BOOM: Jesse Sene-Lefao of the Sea Eagles makes against the North Queensland Cowboys - his team brought the first-round game home, beating the Cowboys 17-8.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
RUN RABBIT RUN: Rabbitohs player Tuqiri sprints in for a try. The mighty Dragons were slayed by the bunny Rabbitohs 23-4.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
SHARKS BITTEN: Todd Carney of the Sharks makes a break during the match between the Cronulla Sharks and the West Tigers. The Sharks lost to the Tigers 21-15, maybe because they lost a man for five minutes to the sin bin?
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
KNIGHTS V TITANS: Paul Carter of the Titans makes a break, but it wasn't enough, with the Newcastle Knights winning 25-14.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
OUTTA MY WAY: Chris Houston of the Knights makes a break against the Titans.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
WHAT A LEGEND: Brad Fittler, 42, celebrates after scoring an intercept try that involved a 60 metre run. All this after 10 seasons out of the game. His team, the Roosters, went on to beat the Broncos 14-7. Fittler's thoughts? He's keen to play in the Nines again next year. What a dude!
Auckland Nines on-field action
POWER MAN: Solomone Kata of the Warriors makes a break against the Sea Eagles.
Auckland Nines on-field action
ORIGIN STAR: Daly Cherry-Evans of the Sea Eagles looks to attack the Warriors' line.
Auckland Nines on-field action
GREAT HAIR: Fuifui Moimoi of the Eels charges forward against the Bulldogs.
Auckland Nines on-field action
CAUGHT: David Fusitua of the Warriors looks to beat the tackle of Lagi Setu of the Raiders.
Auckland Nines on-field action
LEAP: Fa'amanu Brown of the Sharks dives over for a try during the match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Gold Coast Titans.
Auckland Nines on-field action
SHARKED: Ricky Leutele of the Sharks offloads during the match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Gold Coast Titans.
Auckland Nines on-field action
MOMENTUM: Kalifa Faifai Loa charges forward during the match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Gold Coast Titans.
Auckland Nines on-field action
SURROUNDED: Willie Mason of the Knights charges over to score during the match between Newcastle Knights and the Wests Tigers.
Auckland Nines on-field action
CAN'T STOP, WON'T STOP: Willie Mason of the Knights charges over to score during the match between Newcastle Knights and the Wests Tigers.
Auckland Nines on-field action
JUST: Pat O'Hanlon of the Bulldogs dives over to score a try during the match between Canterbury Bulldogs and the Sydney Roosters.
Auckland Nines on-field action
OH HI: Pat O'Hanlon of the Bulldogs offloads during the match between Canterbury Bulldogs and the Sydney Roosters.
Auckland Nines on-field action
TWO ON ONE: Moses Mbye of the Bulldogs charges forward during the match between Canterbury Bulldogs and the Sydney Roosters.
Auckland Nines on-field action
BRONCO`D: Ben Hunt of the Broncos dives over to score during the match between the Parramatta Eels and the Brisbane Broncos.
Auckland Nines on-field action
OUTRUN: Ricky Leutele of the Sharks beats Anthony Don of the Titans.
Auckland Nines on-field action
NOPE: Jake Mamo of the Knights beats the tackle of Blake Austin of the Tigers.
Auckland Nines on-field action
NUH UH: Corey Parker of the Broncos makes a break during the match between the Parramatta Eels and the Brisbane Broncos.
Auckland Nines on-field action
YOU TRIED: Ricky Leutele of the Sharks scores a try in the tackle of David Mead of the Titans.
Auckland Nines on-field action
MUSCLE: Konrad Hurrell of the Warriors charges forward during the match between the New Zealand Warriors and the North Queensland Cowboys.
Auckland Nines on-field action
SPEED: Konrad Hurrell of the Warriors charges forward during the match between the New Zealand Warriors and the North Queensland Cowboys.
Auckland Nines on-field action
SWERVE: Sebastine Ikahihifo of the Warriors charges forward during the match between the New Zealand Warriors and the North Queensland Cowboys.
Auckland Nines on-field action
BOYS: Shaun Johnson of the Warriors celebrates with Sam Tomkins after scoring a try during the match between the New Zealand Warriors and the North Queensland Cowboys.
Auckland Nines on-field action
AWAY LAUGHING: Shaun Johnson of the Warriors breaks away to score a try during the match between the New Zealand Warriors and the North Queensland Cowboys.
Auckland Nines on-field action
BOOM: Warriors Charlie Gubb and Solomone Kata celebrate after Solomone Kata's try in their match with the North Queensland Cowboys.
Auckland Nines on-field action
OVER EASY: Shaun Johnson of the Warriors breaks away to score a try during the match between the New Zealand Warriors and the North Queensland Cowboys.
Auckland Nines on-field action
HOLDING ON: New Zealand Warriors player Solomone Kata tries to break the tackle of Javid Bowen from the North Queensland Cowboys.
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BANG: Warriors player Sebastine Ikahihifo crashes through the defence of Kane Linnett, bottom, and Michael Morgan to score against the Cowboys during day two of the inaugural Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines rugby league tournament held at Eden Park in Auckland.
Auckland Nines on-field action
FLYING: Kodi Nikorima of the Broncos beats the tackle of Fuifui Moimoi of the Eels during the match between the Broncos and the Eels.
Auckland Nines on-field action
GOLDEN EGG: Willie Tonga of the Eels goes close to the tryline during the match between the Eels and the Broncos.
Auckland Nines on-field action
SPRINT: Bill Tupou of the Raiders makes a break to score a try during the match between the Manly Sea Eagles and the Canberra Raiders.
Auckland Nines on-field action
LEAN: Steve Menzies of the Sea Eagles charges forward during the match between the Manly Sea Eagles and the Canberra Raiders.
Auckland Nines on-field action
TRIVIAL: New Zealand Warriors player Shaun Johnson scores under the posts.
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ROAR: Warriors player Sebastine Ikahihifo crashes through the defence of the Cowboys.
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CAN'T TOUCH THIS: Kurt Mann of the Storm charges forward during the match between Melbourne Storm and the St. George Illawarra Dragons.
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STORMING: Tohu Harris of the Storm charges forward during the match between Melbourne Storm and the St. George Illawarra Dragons.
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TRY: Apisai Koroisau of the Rabbitohs beats Matthew Moylan of the panthers to score a try during the match between the Rabbitohs and the Panthers.
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GO FOR IT: Jarrod Mullen of the Knights makes a break during the quarter final match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Newcastle Knights.
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BOOM: Apisai Koroisau of the Rabbitohs beats Lewis Brown of the Panthers to score a try.
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OUCH: Wade Graham of the Sharks is hit hard during the quarter final match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Parramatta Eels.
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IN THE DUST: Dale Copley of the Broncos dives over to score a try during the quarter final match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Newcastle Knights.
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SHARKED: Valentine Holmes of the Sharks runs in to score a try during the quarter final match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Parramatta Eels.
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PRECIOUS: Dylan Walker of the Rabbitohs competes with Solomone Kata of the Warriors for the ball.
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GO FOR IT: Sebastine Ikahihifo of the Warriors makes a break during the quarter final match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the New Zealand Warriors.
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DO IT: Shaun Johnson of the Warriors makes a break to score during the quarter final match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the New Zealand Warriors.
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GROUP HUG: Shaun Johnsonof the Warriors celebrates his try during the quarter final match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the New Zealand Warriors.
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BOOM: Warriors player Sebastine Ikahihifo celebrates a try in their quarter final match against the Rabbittohs.
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IN THE DUST: Warriors player Konrad Hurrell on the burst during their quarter final match against the Rabbittohs.
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ALONE IN FRONT: Warriors player Shaun Johnson gasses the opposition to score a try between the posts during their quarter final match against the Rabbittohs.
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FLYING: Warriors player Shaun Johnson gasses the opposition to score a try between the posts during their quarter final match against the Rabbittohs.
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KNEES: Jeremy Latimore of the Panthers charges forward during the quarter final match between the Penrith Panthers and the North Queensland Cowboys.
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CROWDED: Konrad Hurrell of the Warriors is tackled during the match between the Warriors and the Rabbitohs.
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EASY: Jason Taumalolo of the Cowboys charges forward during the quarter final match between the Penrith Panthers and the North Queensland Cowboys.
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OOPS: Michael Lichaa of the Sharks falls over during the semi final match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Cronulla Sharks.
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DENIED: James Tamou of the Cowboys makes a break during the semi final match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Queensland Cowboys.
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HOLD ON: Tariq Sims of the Cowboys makes a break during the semi final match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Queensland Cowboy.
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CONTRASTS: Warriors players react after losing their semifinal match against the Cowboys 8-0.
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GUTTED: Warriors players react after losing their semifinal match against the Cowboys 8-0.
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BATTLE-WORN: Warriors players react after losing their semifinal match against the Cowboys 8-0.
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CROWD FAVORITES : Warriors players salute the crowd following their semifinal loss.
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WINNERS: Gavin Cooper of the Cowboys charges forward.
Cowboys win
The Cowboys celebrate their win over the Broncos in the grand final of the inaugural Auckland Nines.

It is one of 16 matches on the opening day of the two-day tournament, which will attract more than 45,000 sports fans to Eden Park both today and tomorrow.

Among the crowd on hand to witness today's kick-off was Brian Collett, dressed as an African warrior.

He said: ''This is going to be a great sporting party.

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"Everyone seems to be in a great mood and ready to have an awesome time. It's going to be mean checking out the footy, as well as all the fun in the crowd."

David Berryman, who came dressed in the colours of his beloved Warriors, said: "I'm just looking forward to two days of non-stop action.

"I really hope this event can be even better than the sevens in Wellington. It's a great idea and as a league fan it's cool to be able to watch some of my favourite players so early in the year."

The Nines were launched with a brief opening ceremony, starting at 11.45am, featuring a formal Maori welcome to the 16 competing clubs.

Auckland mayor Len Brown made a short address, with several league fans booing him following last year's revealations surrounding his private life.

NRL chief executive Dave Smith said he believed nines promoters Duco Events had struck onto a winning formula.

Not only would the tournament attract a huge crowd to Eden Park, but it was also likely to benefit rugby league in New Zealand long term.

''This is a fantastic opportunity to grow our game in New Zealand and for our clubs and players to share in a significant new investment in rugby league,'' Smith said.

''It is an exciting format that will attract new fans and television audiences and it provides a stage for rising stars to emerge and showcase their skills alongside the biggest names in our game.''

He said the reaction the NRL had witnessed in Auckland in the lead-up to the tournament had exceeded the sporting body's ''wildest expectation'' for the first year of the event.

The initial NRL Auckland Nines contract has secured the City of Sails hosting rights on an initial three-year term, with an option for a further two years.

While the debut event is restricted to just the 16 NRL clubs, the NRL has been approached from officials from SuperLeague clubs in the UK interested in sending teams down under to future tournaments.

Some of rugby league's greatest playing and coaching talent had spoken out as staunch supporters of the NRL Auckland Nines concept in the months leading up to kick-off.

Queensland great Mal Meninga predicted it ''will be our advertisement for rugby league around the world''.

New South Wales legend Laurie Daley said the nines would be a ''wonderful spectacle''.

As well as a huge crowd - many of whom had donned fancy dress or the replica jerseys of their favourite club for the event - players from the NRL clubs were also welcomed by a sizeable police and security contingent at Eden Park.

Police and security guards are patrolling the streets surrounding Eden Park this weekend, as well as monitoring behaviour inside the ground, in a bid to avoid drunken and loutish behaviour.

Last weekend's IRB Sevens tournament at Wellington's Westpac Stadium was marred by evictions and arrests.

Stuff