NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg has guaranteed the league’s biggest stars will be on show at next year’s inaugural World Cup of Nines despite a packed calendar.
The first edition of the tournament, which will feature 12 men’s teams and four women’s teams, will be held on October 18-19 at the new Western Sydney Stadium.
The tournament will be held two weeks after the NRL grand final and before the international window, which will include Australia taking on New Zealand and Tonga as well as Great Britain’s tour of the southern hemisphere.
The NRL season kicks off with the Indigenous All Stars game in Melbourne on February 14, with round one to be held a month later.
This means for some players the 2019 season will go for nine months next year. The NRL Auckland Nines, which was held from 2014 to 2017, at times struggled to attract big name players because of clubs’ concerns about player workload.
But Greenberg said the lure of representing the Australian jersey would ensure the cream of the crop would make themselves available.
“They desperately want to play for their countries,” Greenberg said. “We’re looking to put international schedules in place at the end of each season, so there’s a clear international window.
“Players will desperately want to play for their nations.
“I can imagine our Pacific nations playing here in October – imagine PNG, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga up against Australia, New Zealand and England, plus other nations.
“It will be a festival. Anyone who saw Tonga play Australia over in New Zealand can see the passion for international rugby league and that applies equally for players.”
The World Cup of Nines is one of the centre pieces of the Rugby League International Federation’s eight-year international calendar which was announced last month.
Greenberg said there was scope to trial experimental rules during the tournament but hadn’t made commitments to which ones.