Rugby league fans will have the chance to meet their heroes in the heart of Auckland this February, at the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines Fan Day in Aotea Square.

On Friday 5 February, Auckland will welcome back all 288+ NRL Auckland Nines players in a day packed with a free fan-friendly, family-friendly activities.

The NRL Auckland Nines Fan Day takes place the day before Auckland’s biggest summer event, the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines tournament, kicks off at Eden Park.

Rugby league will take over Aotea Square from 10am to 4pm with a host of activities where fans can meet the NRL stars, including signing sessions and selfies. There will be onstage interviews with NRL Nines team captains, and an NRL members’ lounge with exclusive access for members of all NRL clubs who have travelled to Auckland for the Nines.

There will also be opportunities to buy your favourite NRL team merchandise, ready for getting it autographed by one of the players.

Rugby league legend Mal Meninga says events like the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines Fan Day and the Club Programme are important to the players.

“Whatever form of sport you play, you have to be in touch with the fans, with the community, with the kids who play the sport. Fan days are about the people who make the sport happen – they buy the tickets, put their bums on seats, bring the sport to life. It’s important to stay in touch with the fans.”

The Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines Fan Day will follow on from the Club Programme, on Thursday 4 February, when 16 local Auckland rugby league clubs will host visits from the 16 NRL teams. The club events are open and free to the public.

The local clubs are throughout the Auckland region, from the Hibiscus Coast Raiders and Ranui’s Waitemata Seagulls, to the Papakura Sea Eagles and Otara Scorpions. The 16 chosen clubs will also receive a $2000 equipment package.

“Kids who play the sport need to be able to meet their heroes,” says Mal Meninga. “Days like this are what make you human.”

Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) Chief Executive Brett O’Riley says the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines Fan Day is a chance to give a warm Auckland welcome to the 288+ NRL players here for the tournament.

“The Fan Day is a home-grown event that provides a unique opportunity for supporters to see all 16 NRL teams in one place, at one time. And whether you’re new to the game or a die-hard fan, the atmosphere is unrivalled.”

Duco Events Chief Executive Martin Snedden says part of the ongoing success of the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines is the excitement in the lead-up to Auckland’s greatest weekend.

“Auckland really turns it on for the NRL Auckland Nines. Events like the Fan Day create a buzz in the city, and New Zealand and overseas fans get to meet their rugby league heroes – along with some of the exciting new players who will emerge as key playmakers over the weekend. This year we saw Tui Lolohea and Solomone Kata from the Warriors as stand-out players at the Nines, as well as Jack Bird from the Sharks, who had a great tournament and went on to win the NRL Rookie of the year.”