Inaugurated in 2014, the Auckland Nines is a rugby league pre-season competition held at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand. It takes place on either the last weekend in January or the first weekend in February and offers $2.25m in prize money, with the winner collecting $500,000, almost $100,000 more than the Premiers earn just three months prior. As it stands, the competition will run annually until at least 2018.
Whilst the concept of a Nines tournament is not a completely new idea, the scale to which this competition is marketed and played is something the game has not seen. First introduced into Australian professional rugby league in 1996 during the Super League period, and only lasting a season, Rugby League Nines features 15 players in a squad, with only nine players allowed on the field at one time. With unlimited interchanges over 18 minutes, it is a format of the game where the speedsters and the classier players shine. It allows the likes of Shaun Johnson to step his way through the defensive line and flick pass out the back, while fullback Greg Inglis can fly down the sideline and dive for the corner in spectacular fashion. There’s also plenty of room for all the forwards and the big hits that draws the crowds in the first place.
While it is still rugby league, there are a few rule changes compared to the full version of the game. Instead of six in a scrum, each team packs with five players - three up front and two at the back - and scrums only occur when there’s a double knock on. If only one team knocks it forward, it is a play-the-ball restart. Conversions after a try are drop kicks as opposed to place kicks, and the opposition doesn’t have to retire behind the goal line like they do in the NRL. However, the players cannot interfere with the conversion attempt. There is also a bonus zone under the posts when a try is scored, with five points being awarded rather than four. In qualifying rounds, a five minute golden try period will take place if it’s a draw at full-time. In finals, an unlimited golden try period is used to split the teams.
As we enter the 2016 edition of the tournament, the only 2 teams to have won the competition previously are the North Queensland Cowboys and the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
|2016||PARRAMATTA EELS||NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS||22-4|
|2015||SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS||CRONULLA SHARKS||18-14|
|2014||NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS||BRISBANE BRONCOS||16-7|