NRL suspends Nines for 2018, unlikely to return to Auckland

Warriors star Shaun Johnson in action during last year's Auckland Nines.

Warriors star Shaun Johnson in action during last year's Auckland Nines.

The NRL has suspended the Auckland Nines in 2018 in a bid to ease the workload on players following this year's Rugby League World Cup.

NRL chief commercial officer Andrew Abdo insisted the Nines still has a long-term future on the calendar, although the tournament is unlikely to be held in Auckland when it returns.

Introduced by Duco Events in 2014, the concept was initially a huge success but its popularity has waned as the novelty factor wore off.

The Eden Park tournament has been under a cloud after a drop in this year's ticket sales, with around 22,000 spectators attending compared to sell-outs in previous years.

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Duco have previously called for the event to be moved to Australia and the NRL said there is every chance that will happen.

The NRL are seeking expressions of interest from cities interested in hosting the tournament, but Abdo did add that there was a strong chance the Nines will return to New Zealand in the future rotation.

The appeal of the Nines was also hurt by the attitude of some NRL coaches, who were reluctant to field their best players due to the risk of injury before the start of the season.

With the World Cup running until December 2, the governing body agreed that it was not viable to ask elite players to back up for the Nines in early 2018.

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The same applies for the All Stars game in the pre-season, which will also not be held in 2018 but will return in 2019.

Last week, Duco chief Dean Lonergan took aim at the Warriors for resting several stars and blamed them for the tournament's demise.

Skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was kept on ice as he returned from a serious knee injury, while a minor groin problem prevented Shaun Johnson from playing a game.

As a result, the home team lost all three pool matches to miss the knockout stage for the first time.

"Would it have changed the crowds if the Warriors had taken it seriously? I don't know and I don't think so but it certainly impacted on what happened going forward," Lonergan told Radio Live.

"They didn't play their best possible team, which would have been nice if they had and it would have been nice if they had taken it seriously rather than saying we don't care about the Nines, we care about the rest of the season."



 - Stuff

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