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The Auckland Nines is only in its first year, but Newcastle Knights players believe the tournament has the potential to launch rugby league into a bold new era.


With the inaugural tournament just a month away, Knights prop Willie Mason says the Nines format can follow in the footsteps of Sevens Rugby and make its way onto the Olympic Games arena.


“Oh yeah absolutely it can," Mason says.


"I suppose you can go back to what Kerry Packer did to the cricket and turned it all into a one day series.


"That made it a lot more exciting and brought a whole world of cricket together.


"They’ve obviously changed that format down to Twenty20, which makes it even more exciting because people were probably getting sick of one dayers.


"I think rugby league is such a great spectacle to watch anyway and if you do shorten it up a little bit and change a few rules, it could spark a new generation of followers to rugby league.


"Especially holding it in a place like Auckland, where it is a rugby union heartland.


"So if we can put on a good showcase, we can show the world that rugby league is a very entertaining game to watch.


"The athletes that we have amongst the NRL will be at the forefront of the whole two days."


Mason is first to admit league isn't on the global stage of union or football, but he insists the Nines format will be the perfect launch pad for the NRL's stars to showcase their skills.


The Knights are yet to finalise their squad for the tournament, but are expected to field a strong side to compete in their pool against the Sharks, Tigers and Titans.


"Personally you’d think the Nines would be a better spectacle to watch than union sevens," he says.


"Obviously union has a bigger audience and it is a world game and therefore that’s why the Olympics have accepted their game.


"We need to be real where we are in the world and league isn’t a world game like soccer or rugby union.


"But an event like the Nines if we give it a couple of years could see a lot of people looking at league in a different light.


"They might think it’s just a thugs sport and a real brutal sport, but the Nines will show the skill level of some players and the athleticism.


"I think the best athletes do come from rugby league and you can see that when Sonny Bill and Timana Tahu and all these ex-league players go to union and seem to grab a Wallabies or All-Blacks jersey quite easily just through their athleticism and knowing how to play, run and defend.


"A player like Israel Folau has done three codes and he is a rugby league player.


"Then you’ve got the likes of Sonny Bill Williams, Greg Inglis and freak young backs coming through just showing amazing skills.


"The Nines will be a great opportunity for these players to showcase their skills."


Emerging hooker Adam Clydesdale echos Mason's thoughts on the Nines and can't wait to line-up for the Knights if given the opportunity.


"It will be very exciting to watch and be a part of," Clydesdale says.


"There will be some good players and it will be all about the speed of the game and being fit.


"It will be very different to the normal game, but it will be fun.


"We have a lot of fit players at the Club with people like Jimmy McManus and Aku Uate, so it should be good to play in the tournament.


"Hopefully the Nines is something that will continue in the future.


"Some of the best players in the world will be playing and it would be good to see the Nines even one day played at the Olympics."


The Auckland Nines will be played over two days from February 15 and 16 at New Zealand's famous Eden Park.