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Tuqiri backs Nines games push

Tony Webeck Sat, Feb 15, 2014 - 5:40 PM

Lote Tuqiri says having rugby league in the Commonwealth Games could keep more stars in the game. Copyright: Colin Whelan/NRL Photos. Copyright: Colin Whelan/NRL Photos

Australianrepresentative Lote Tuqiri believes steps to include rugby league nines in theCommonwealth Games from as early as 2018 will help to keep the game's brighteststars from switching codes.

Tuqiriplayed sevens rugby for Australia at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourneand was excited to hear of the developments that will see a Nines tournamentinvolving nine international teams – including Australia and New Zealand –played as an exhibition event on June 27-28 prior to the 2014 Games at Glasgow.

Theannouncement of an under-19s event was made on the morning of the kick-off tothe Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines with a view to possibly becoming a medalevent at the 2018 Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast.

Tuqiri'sAustralian team failed to win a medal at the 2006 Games but he believes such anopportunity will help in making the international exposure offered by rugbyunion less enticing to rugby league's brightest stars.

"Ididn't know that but I think that would be awesome," Tuqiri said when toldof the exhibition event. "I had the opportunity to play in 2006 inMelbourne and it was one of the best experiences I've ever had in my life.

"That'scertainly an avenue to keep players in the game but at the end of the day – I'mnot going to lie – people stay in the game for money, that's the honesttruth."

Effusive inhis praise for the opening day of the tournament but aware that there was stillimprovements that can be made, NRL CEO Dave Smith welcomed the news of theCommonwealth Games initiative as the next phase of the game's expansion.

"If youlook at what's happened today, the spectacle, a lot of people would stand upand take notice of that," Smith said.

"Ithink the Commonwealth Games is a good place to go. That's the under-19s andpart of the festival before the Commonwealth Games so I think that's thestarting place.

"Youlook at the way the game is played, the sheer entertainment... Much better thansevens, close enough to the main game, it's been fantastic."

Some of theNRL's brightest young talents also expressed excitement at possiblyrepresenting their country with dreams of Commonwealth gold.

"It'svery exciting. You always grow up watching the Commonwealth Games and theOlympic Games and it's exciting to be on that stage," said 19-year-oldSouth Sydney centre Dylan Walker.

"We'lljust have to wait and see. It will be exciting if that happens. I know a lot ofyoung blokes love this sort of game (nines) because there's open space and youcan roam around and play a bit of footy."

Twenty-two-year-oldBroncos centre Dale Copley scored a try in his side's first-up win over theBulldogs and believes the nines format is the perfect platform to take the gameto the world stage.

"Obviouslyit's a positive for rugby league if we're getting exposure on the world stageand getting hosted at an event like that," Copley said.

"It'sonly new now and we don't really know where it's going to go but it's obviouslyvery exciting and the fans over here have jumped on it and ran with it. If itgets to the Commonwealth Games that would be unreal for the sport and it willgive us a bit more exposure worldwide."