representative Lote Tuqiri believes steps to include rugby league nines in the
Commonwealth Games from as early as 2018 will help to keep the game's brightest
stars from switching codes.
Tuqiri played sevens rugby for Australia at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne and was excited to hear of the developments that will see a Nines tournament involving nine international teams – including Australia and New Zealand – played as an exhibition event on June 27-28 prior to the 2014 Games at Glasgow.
The announcement of an under-19s event was made on the morning of the kick-off to the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines with a view to possibly becoming a medal event at the 2018 Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast.
Tuqiri's Australian team failed to win a medal at the 2006 Games but he believes such an opportunity will help in making the international exposure offered by rugby union less enticing to rugby league's brightest stars.
"I didn't know that but I think that would be awesome," Tuqiri said when told of the exhibition event. "I had the opportunity to play in 2006 in Melbourne and it was one of the best experiences I've ever had in my life.
"That's certainly an avenue to keep players in the game but at the end of the day – I'm not going to lie – people stay in the game for money, that's the honest truth."
Effusive in his praise for the opening day of the tournament but aware that there was still improvements that can be made, NRL CEO Dave Smith welcomed the news of the Commonwealth Games initiative as the next phase of the game's expansion.
"If you look at what's happened today, the spectacle, a lot of people would stand up and take notice of that," Smith said.
"I think the Commonwealth Games is a good place to go. That's the under-19s and part of the festival before the Commonwealth Games so I think that's the starting place.
"You look at the way the game is played, the sheer entertainment... Much better than sevens, close enough to the main game, it's been fantastic."
Some of the NRL's brightest young talents also expressed excitement at possibly representing their country with dreams of Commonwealth gold.
"It's very exciting. You always grow up watching the Commonwealth Games and the Olympic Games and it's exciting to be on that stage," said 19-year-old South Sydney centre Dylan Walker.
"We'll just have to wait and see. It will be exciting if that happens. I know a lot of young blokes love this sort of game (nines) because there's open space and you can roam around and play a bit of footy."
Broncos centre Dale Copley scored a try in his side's first-up win over the
Bulldogs and believes the nines format is the perfect platform to take the game
to the world stage.
"Obviously it's a positive for rugby league if we're getting exposure on the world stage and getting hosted at an event like that," Copley said.
"It's only new now and we don't really know where it's going to go but it's obviously very exciting and the fans over here have jumped on it and ran with it. If it gets to the Commonwealth Games that would be unreal for the sport and it will give us a bit more exposure worldwide."