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Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines

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Auckland Mayor Len Brown this morning led the official announcement that a multimillion-dollar NRL Nines tournament will be a feature of the city's summer for at least the next five years.

"This a very exciting announcement,'' Mr Brown said at the event's official launch at Eden Park. "Auckland has secured a five-year partnership with the NRL to host an annual Nines tournament. It's the first time the 16 clubs of the NRL have played in one place at the one time.

"For our city, the event city not just of New Zealand but one of the great event cities of the world, this is another significant sporting event.''

NRL chief executive David Smith said the tournament was a great chance to build the game's profile in New Zealand.

"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,'' Mr Smith said.

While a carnival atmosphere akin to Wellington's Sevens tournament is expected, the games will have a serious edge.

"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.''

"Make no mistake, the 16 teams will be there to win,'' NRL head of football Todd Greenberg said.

"Clubs have already started making their plans for camps and trials in New Zealand to make sure they have the best possible build-up to the Nines. It's a unique style of play and it will really showcase the skills of our players.

"There is certainly a lucrative prize on offer for the winner and once the teams take the field everyone will see just how determined they will be to perform well and win the inaugural Nines crown.''

The NRL Auckland Nines received some heavyweight support in the immediate lead up to today's launch from State of Origin coaches Mal Meninga and Laurie Daley and arguably the game's greatest coach, Newcastle Knights mentor Wayne Bennett.

Meninga said the event "will be our advertisement for rugby league around the world'' while Daley forecast a "wonderful spectacle'' from "some of the best players in the NRL''.

Bennett said the NRL Auckland Nines "is going to be a great celebration of rugby league and the Knight's can't wait to be a part of that''.

Promoter Dean Lonergan expects the tournament to become a fixture on the city's sporting calender and the presence of all 16 NRL clubs with star line-ups to attract close to the capacity crowd of 96,000 fans to Eden Park over two days.

"I can't see why we won't go close to selling this out in the first year," he said. "It is a monster event."

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