The Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines, which played to sellout crowds earlier this year, will return in 2015.
The NRL, Duco Events and Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development (ATEED) announced on Tuesday that the Nines will be held at Eden Park on 31 January and 1 February, 2015.
All 16 NRL teams will enter the tournament which carries prize money of more than $AU2.4 million. And the size of each squad has been increased from 16 to 18 – enabling teams to rotate more players and provide them with longer rest periods.
The teams, which have nine players, are split into four groups and play nine minute halves.
The top two teams from each group advance to the knockout stage of the tournament with the two top teams playing in the final.
The inaugural tournament this year, won by the North Queensland Cowboys, was played in front of a crowd of nearly 90,000 over the two days.
NRL Head of Commercial, Paul Kind said the Nines is a fun and spectacular way of playing rugby league.
“The atmosphere this year was absolutely brilliant and saw thousands of Australians travel to New Zealand for the events first year.
“Not only does it produce great football but it brings enormous economic benefits to New Zealand.”
A post-event independent evaluation of the 2014 event, undertaken by Fresh Info Co, released in June found that this year’s tournament expanded Auckland’s GDP by
$9.35 million, of which $3.24 million came into the New Zealand economy from offshore.
It attracted 16,000 New Zealanders from outside Auckland in addition to the 6,000 Australians who crossed the Tasman to watch the Nines.
Auckland Mayor, Len Brown said the Nines provided outstanding entertainment for league fans and superb economic returns for Auckland in 2014.
“Event organisers will once again transform Eden Park into a rugby league playground, and the Nines is set to become a very special event in Auckland’s major events landscape”, he said.
The tournament was globally recognised at the prestigious SportBusiness International Awards in London last April.
Dick Smith CEO, Mr Nick Abboud spoke about sponsoring Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines for the second year running.
“This year fans and families really embraced this great Nine's concept and enjoyed the tournament,” Abboud said.
“Seeing Eden Park filled for two days with over 90,000 fans was just amazing, and Dick Smith are delighted to be naming rights partner of the event again and look forward to growing the concept in years to come.”
Duco Events Director David Higgins urged fans to put their names on the Ticketek waiting list to secure seats to the 2015 tournament.
“We expect huge demand for next year’s event and, by using the waiting list, fans can be notified when different categories of tickets go on sale.”
Event travel packages will go on-sale in Australia from Monday September 8 through Sportsnet Holidays.
Tickets will go on sale to the general public from October 9.
Len Brown is confident the Nines will be a real highlight of Auckland’s series of blockbuster events next summer.
“Given the success of the 2014 event, we expect to see visitors travel from Australia, one of our key tourism markets to enjoy a long weekend in Auckland where they can see for themselves that the show never stops in Auckland.”