Sport: Rugby League Nines going global in Cabramatta
Emerging nations believe a Rugby League Nines World Series could be the answer as interest continues to skyrocket in the newest form of the game.
A rugby league nines World Series is being proposed as the shorter form of the game continues to expand its global reach.
While much of the focus this weekend will be on the star-studded NRL Auckland Nines, across the Tasman 32 teams from five continents and the Pacific will be lining up in Sydney.
Vinnie Wylie reports.
The Cabramatta International Nines was first held in 2003 and has grown from small beginnings to be a meeting spot for the next wave of rugby league talent. Vanuatu and the Philippines made their debut three years ago, forming a close relationship that led to a full test match between the two countries in October. Philippines Rugby League founder and coach Clayton Watene says the tournament has helped put them on the map.
CLAYTON WATENE: We first started off with one team. We were struggling at one stage there to get a full side out there on the paddock. Look when Vanuatu first started they were quite successful in their first hit out. They went to the championship final and we went to the bowl championship so for two minnow teams to come into the competition to do successful is pretty good. The following year we ended up putting three sides in and the now this is our second year of having four sides in the competition.
Kumuls coach Mal Meninga will take charge of a Papua New Guinea team that includes a number of players from last year's gold medal winning side at the Commonwealth Nines Championship in Glasgow. With the rugby league nines included in this years Pacific Games in Port Moresby, PNGRFL Chair Sandis Tsaka says Cabramatta is a valuable opportunity to blood young talent. American Samoa also return after a year away. Coach Paul Roebeck says the bulk of his players are based in New Zealand, with one in Sydney, and former Junior Warriors halfback and Greek international Jordan Meads travelling from the UK.
PAUL ROEBECK: It definitely fills up. They get a massive turnout and it's a great day. It seems to get better and better every year. I think it attracts more players. My biggest problem is a lot of clubs won't release their players to American Samoa, they would rather have them in their clubs but this year we've got them all released. We've got quite a few good names in there this year so we are looking for a a great result.
The Fiji Steelers team includes five players based in Fiji with the rest made up from Fijians playing in Australia.
Head coach Bill Tukana believes his team will be a contender for the title.
BILL TUKANA: So I want to gel up these forwards, experienced boys from here [in Australia] - former Fiji Bati players - and these upcoming young talents [from Fiji] will play the roles in the backline and mix them together so I'm pretty confident we will give the Cabra Nines other teams a good show. The team I have put together this year I have no doubt, I have full confidence in this team - we will be the underdogs and I won't be surprised if we reach the grand final".
Niue, Samoa and the Cook islands will also be flying the Pacific flag, while Canada, Malta, Portugal, Thailand, El Salvador and Chile ensure a truly global feel.
Clayton Watene says the clash with the NRL Nines is unfortunate but believes what's happening at Cabramatta could be the start of something even bigger.
CLAYTON WATENE: It's a shame that it's on the same weekend because we love to watch the nines contest but we are all gonna be busy of course so we are pretty disappointed it is on the same weekend. I think from a personal aspect I can see it going to like the rugby clubrooms like a sevens network. I reckon we can have more and more interest coming on board, more and more sponsors and things like that. I can see it going like a full nines circuit. Why not? Especially with the NRL nines making it a lot more popular for us as well.
The Cabramatta Nines kick off bright and early this Saturday at the St Mary's Leagues Stadium in the Blue Mountains.
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