League fans can again plan to spend Waitangi Weekend at Eden Park next year, with the fourth edition of the Downer NRL Auckland Nines confirmed for February 4-5, 2017.
While the Warriors are still reeling from their recent disappointing NRL season finish, halfback Shaun Johnson hopes they can kick-start next year’s campaign by claiming an elusive piece of silverware.
After guiding his side through to the final against Parramatta this season, Johnson has his sights set on winning the title next year.
“For us at the Warriors, we’d love to go one better next year,” said Johnson.
“We were all disappointed that we couldn’t get the final result this year but it was a massive improvement for us and we definitely took a few steps forward.
“It’s such an awesome way to open the year and something I really look forward to and get excited about.”
A host of NRL stars – 49 Australian representatives, 46 Kiwis test players, 46 State of Origin players, 16 Fijian internationals, six England representatives, 28 Samoan representatives, and 23 Tongan internationals – have taken centre stage at the tournament during its first three years and that trend is set to continue next season.
Johnson said the event provides a unique chance for players from all 16 NRL clubs to get together and play competitively after a summer of pre-season training.
“It’s such an awesome way to open the year and something I really look forward to and get excited about,” said Johnson.
“After all the work you’ve done in the pre-season, it’s a really good opportunity to break away and have some fun with so many great players all together in Auckland at the same time.
“The response from the fans is always sensational, too.”
NRL Auckland Nines
• Saturday-Sunday, February 4-5, 2017.
• All 16 NRL clubs together in Auckland.
• Featuring 288 players.
• To date, 49 Australian, 46 New Zealand, 46 State of Origin, 16 Fijian, 6 English, 28 Samoan and 23 Tongan reps have appeared at the pre-season tournament.
• Thirty-one games.
• Nine players per team, nine minute halves.
• $2.6 million in prizemoney.
• More than 80,000 fans expected over the two days.
Article from the NZ Herald (Friday Sep 9, 2016) by David Skipwith
David Skipwith is the Herald’s rugby league reporter