All 16 Clubs today assembled at the Dick Smith store in George Street Sydney to showcase the playing strips for the event at Eden Park on February 15-16.
Former premiership-winning Roosters captain Brad Fittler has today been ruled eligible to play in the inaugural Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines next month after satisfying a number of specific criteria set by the NRL. NRL Head of Football, Todd Greenberg, made the announcement at a special event at Dick Smith’s George Street store in Sydney where Robbie Farah, Willie Mason, Michael Ennis, Adam Reynolds and Anthony Watmough were among NRL stars to showcase the club playing strips for the $A2.34 million event at Eden Park on February 15-16.
Greenberg said the Roosters had applied to the NRL to exercise its discretion to reinstate the retired Fittler for the “specific and sole purpose of competing for the Club” in the two-day, nine-a-side event, in which teams must field at least 12 of their top 25 playing list (including at least one of their top five) in the 16-man squads.
“Fittler will play a valuable mentoring role with the young players in the Roosters squad taking part in the inaugural Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines,” Greenberg said.
“Being the competitor that he is, he has worked hard to ensure he deserves his place in the team, as well as satisfying a range of criteria and minimum standards we have set to reinstate a retired player for registration.
“The Roosters have a particularly heavy schedule leading into the start of the 2014 Telstra Premiership with the World Club Challenge in Sydney the week after the Nines tournament so their application to have Fittler added to their squad for the event in Auckland warranted consideration and underwent a thorough review process.”
Greenberg had further good news for Rugby League fans, announcing there are only limited seats remaining before the event is declared a sell-out in its inaugural year.
“To attract over 90,000 fans over two days – including more than 10,000 from outside of Auckland – for the inaugural event, which is still 24 days away, is a great achievement,” said Greenberg.
The rush towards a sell-out is no surprise to the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines Managing Director, David Higgins of Duco Events.
“From day one (fellow Duco Events director) Dean Lonergan and I thought the concept was a winner,” Higgins said.
“We always thought the event could sell out, but didn’t expect it until a day before the event when the hype is at a premium.
To be in this position a month out – that has totally blown us away.
“It is a testament to the fact that Rugby League has a huge fan base and fans realise that the quality of football on the field will be immense from game one.
“The indication from all of the clubs is that they are coming to Eden Park to win the tournament. This is no pre-season hit-out.”
The players are as excited as the fans about the Nines format. Willie Mason, who was in Sydney to showcase the Knights’ Nines jersey said:
“The Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines is going to be awesome. “The fast and exciting format over just one weekend will also attract new fans, which is great for the game.
“The way the Kiwis have embraced it, along with our Aussie fans who are travelling over for it is testament to that. “What a fantastic way to kick-off the footy season …I can’t wait to get amongst it.” Wests Tigers captain Robbie Farah agreed:
“I was in Auckland last week and the talk about the Nines is non-stop. “Everywhere you look there are pictures of Paul Gallen, Willie Mason, Todd Carney, Greg Bird – on trains, on shop fronts, bus shelters - and there are banners across the main street, on flag poles and shop windows.
“The atmosphere is going to be electric. Everyone at Wests Tigers is excited and we are going to Auckland to try our very best to win that inaugural trophy.”
The players who showed off their club playing strip today included:
Broncos - Ben Hunt; Bulldogs – Michael Ennis; Cowboys - Gavin Cooper; Dragons - Jason Nightingale; Knights - Willie Mason; Parramatta - Kelepi Tanginoa; Penrith - Jamie Soward; Rabbitohs - Adam Reynolds; Raiders -Luke Bateman; Roosters – Shaun Kenny-Dowall; Sea Eagles - Anthony Watmough; Sharks - Chris Heighington; Storm – Sisa Waqa; Titans - Ryan James; Wests Tigers - Robbie Farah. TICKETS Available at www.ticketek.co.nz