Before the National Rugby League season kicks off, the league teams will head to New Zealand for the Auckland Nines competition. The tournament will span only two days, February 4th and 5th, and will feature a round robin group stage as well as a finals round.
The event has the vibe of a festival. The NRL takes on a different variant of the sport and the players take to the field several times a day, playing 18-minute games in quick bursts that are a lot quicker than what Rugby League fans are used to.
The competition is notoriously difficult to predict for a number of reasons. It takes place pre-season, so we have no idea what kind of form the players are in. We don’t know how the new line-ups are going to fare or whether the players are in full health. On top of that, we don’t even know which players the clubs will send.
Also, it’s a different sport to what the players are used to. Rugby Nines is much more agile and faster paced than regular Rugby League. And how players adapt to the format is somewhat unpredictable. The competition started just two years ago, so there’s not a lot of information to work with.
And it should also be noted that in previous years, success at the Auckland Nines has not led to success in the NRL season. For some reason, the top teams in the competition don’t usually go on to have very good seasons.
So all that makes it pretty tough to pick a winner. One thing we know for sure is New Zealand will probably do very well. The Warriors reached the finals last year but lost to Parramatta (who were later stripped of the title). The years prior they made it to the quarter and semi finals. Playing at home, New Zealand has more than just prize money at stake, so naturally they are the bookmakers’ pick.
Jarryd Hayne is scheduled to make it to the Auckland Nines, which is great news for the Gold Coast Titans. The versatile Rugby League, Rugby Union, and NFL player thrives in the Nines format, which puts his speed and agility to full use.
At the end of the day, the Auckland Nines is seen as a kind of exhibition tournament. But with roughly $1.8m USD on the line, there’s a lot to play for.
Odds To Win The 2017 Auckland Nines Competition:
New Zealand Warriors: 13/4
North Queensland Cowboys: 11/2
Gold Coast Titans: 9/1
Parramatta Eels: 9/1
Penrith Panthers: 10/1
Cronulla Sharks: 14/1
South Sydney Rabbitohs: 14/1
Brisbane Broncos: 20/1
Photo credit: “Jarryd Hayne” by Naparazzi, CC BY-SA 2.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0], via Flickr.