New Nines rules all about excitement
If you have an appetite for the spectacular then the rules committee for next year's inaugural Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines have answered your call.
The brains trust behind the tournament have struck rugby league gold with the introduction of five point tries and a new Golden Try in extra-time for the Nines extravaganza at Auckland's Eden Park on February 15-16.
The Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines will see all 16 NRL clubs compete for $2.6 million in prize-money in New Zealand's biggest summer event.
Thirty-one matches will be played over two days and will showcase some of the most innovative moves in sports - rules changes which were announced today.
"I love the changes," said rugby league great and former Bulldogs, Warriors, Queensland and Kangaroos star Steve Price.
"They are a recipe for nine minutes of flat-out footy. There will be blokes screaming for air. It's going to be fast.
"The Nines will be brilliant for the fans - it will be a real festival of rugby league."
Traditionalists will be pleased that the tournament will be conducted in accordance with 'Rugby League Laws of the Game International Level with Notes on the Laws' approved by the Australian Rugby League Commission in February.
But the Auckland event has a number of specific and exciting modifications.
Arguably the most exciting is the introduction of a five point try – a change which is designed to reward teams for attacking play.
The five pointer can only be scored in the 'Bonus Zone' located in the in-goal area between the goal posts at each end. All other tries scored outside the 'Bonus Zone' will remain as four pointers.
"The idea of the 5-point try is an exciting new concept," said Nathan McGuirk, the NRL General Manager, Football Operations. "It will reward the attacking team who will be looking to pick up the extra point by scoring in the 'Bonus Zone' area.
"At the same time, it also offers a good incentive for the defending team to keep chasing the player with the ball and try to prevent him from scoring in the 'Bonus Zone'."
In the event of a match ending in a draw after regular time – games will be played over two nine minutes halves - the winner will be the team who scores a 'Golden Try' in extra time.
In qualifying round matches, the duration of the extra time will not exceed five minutes. If no 'Golden Try' has been scored to end the game the match will be deemed a draw, and competition points awarded accordingly.
In the finals, the match will continue until a try is scored - the usual modes of scoring (field-goals and penalty goals will carry no points value during the "extra time – Golden Try" period.
"The concept of the extra time 'Golden Try' should also prove exciting for players and fans alike," said McGuirk. "I am sure everyone will welcome these new exciting rules for the NRL Nines tournament."
Other rule changes for the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines include:
• Goal-kicks will not feature in the tournament with dropkicks taken in line from where the try was scored worth two points. Penalty dropkicks will be worth two points with a field goal in general play remaining at one point.
• Scrums will consist of five players from each team and will only be used in the event of a double knock-on or a mutual infringement.
• In the event of a successful 40/20 kick, play will recommence with a tap re-start to the kicking team 20 metres in from where the ball crossed the touch line.
• Matches will be re-started by the scoring team through a drop kick off
• Referees will have the power to send players to the sin-bin for five minutes for foul play.
Price, on hand at the launch in Auckland, is confident the forward thinkers behind the innovations will be rewarded by a spectacular event at Eden Park.
"Make no mistake about it - the Nines tournament is going to be huge," he said.
"We are going to see a brand new style of footy that we haven't seen played before.
"I'm really looking forward to seeing what type of player will be the full package in Nines - which players really show their skills and ability.
"We could say Benny Barba will be amazing – but will he? Or will it be the forwards killing it?
"In my day Glenn Lazarus would have been outstanding – he was big and fast and fit. I'm picking someone like Sam Burgess as being a stand-out – he's fast, he's mobile and he's super fit.
"But we just don't know who the Nines will suit. Will it be the forwards? Will it be the backs? That's what's exciting me."