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USA v PNG, World Cup 9s

It seems the players who covered the longest distances are those who want Nines rugby league to succeed the most.

S o much so that seven members of the England women's squad spent their Mad Monday celebrations on a plane flying across Europe and Asia to get to Sydney to play.

Kelsey Gentles (England), Jason Baitieri (France) and Charlie Jones (United States) came from Manchester, Perpignon and Jacksonville to represent their countries.

While national pride is paramount, it is the belief that the shortened game can attract new television networks and new fans also drives them.

Fox Sports was merely preaching to the converted in Australia during the two-day World Cup 9s at Bankwest Stadium.

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It's in the cluttered sports world in the US that Jones thinks rugby league can pop its head up and get noticed more often. 

"Any sort of publicity around rugby league will grow over there. We just need to get it on TV more often ... Nines is new," Jones told

"You do that and sponsors are going to come, and you're going to get the athletes who don't make the NFL – and there's a lot of them – fall back into our contact sport.

"It all comes down to money, sponsorship, getting the 'word' out there. Something like the World Cup 9s that is already being broadcast is the way to go."

Jones is also something like a prophet yelling from the mountain. He's spreading the rugby word in Florida after growing up and playing all his football in Brisbane. Work to him to the US where he met and married his American wife Nicole.

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Although he's semi-retired from rugby league after playing with the Jacksonville Axemen he heard about the Nines through head coach there Sean Rutgerson, who is also the USA Nines coach.

"I got in touch with Seano, got my residency okayed, and here we are."

Baiteri also has strong Australian connections. He was born in Paris to a French mother and Australian father. He played junior league in Toulouse before coming to Australia at age eight and playing for the Hills District Bulls in Sydney.

His father Tas played for the Penrith Panthers and Canterbury Bulldogs in the 1980s before going on to become a pioneer when it comes to taking the game into new territories.

He is a 2007 Australian Schoolboy, after playing for Newtown in the then Roosters system. He played one NRL game in 2010 but then went to Catalans in 2011 and has 220 Super League games, as well as 13 internationals for France since 2012.

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"Absolutely it's worth the long trip to get here. It's great for the game, great for international rugby league because it showcases our players all over the world.

"It's giving fans something different than 13-a-side – a shorter, faster game.

"We talk about having more space bringing to the forefront the creativity and skill of players in a high-tempo game."

What about the workload tacking onto the end of the SL and NRL seasons?

"It's already in the international calendar and things like this are great because there is a fair distance between World Cups [in 13-a-side] so this falls in between and gets players to reunite and play on the same stage.

"Adding on a few extra games at the end of the season isn't too bad."

Of course, Nines is a new concept in Super League.

Castelford Tigers Kelsey Gentles openly admitted to she'd never really played it before, even though she was standing in the corridors of Bankwest Stadium in an England jersey.

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"It's definitely worth it … we're new to this ... but we've learned so much in a short space of time.

"It kind of makes you step up in your ability really fast and it's the kind of thing we need as we move forward to the 2021 World Cup [13-a-side]," she said.

The downside for the women players is the same in the UK as in Australia.

"It's taking more time off work, childcare arranging, so it's a learning curve still. Maybe in a couple of years it [rugby league] will be our sole purpose – in all its forms – and we'll be getting paid better, and getting more professional.

"As amazing as it is now, [but] there's always room for improvement. The Nines is a great idea so we need to make sure the focus on the women's game remains as high as the men's – that will make for an even better competition."

All players in the 12 men's teams and four women's teams in Sydney received the same general payment of $2000 each.

Gentles, who made a name for herself in Sydney by pulling down Australia's Tiana Penitani just short of the English line after a 90-metre sprint, said that as the Nines payments went up, gender parity had to remain.

"Women play exciting rugby league too, you know."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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