It was back in 1998 when the last tournament of its kind was around, only for player burnout cited as the reason behind its eventual demise after 7 years – but now, the talk of a new nine-a-side tournament organised by former Kiwi Dean Lonergan and business partner David Higgins, is a very real possibility.
The belief is that the tournament, once it goes ahead, can go toe-to-toe with the Wellington Sevens tournament, with both prize-money and crowd figures to be higher than the Sevens competition, according to Lonergan.
“It will be the country's biggest sporting event,” Lonergan predicted.
“If we draw 100,000 over two days, then there will be nothing that matches that. I think it could also be the richest sporting event in the country.”
With all 16 NRL clubs providing provisional support for the competition, the potential is there for some teams to submit entire first-grade squads, as a means of garnering more interest.
The duo behind the re-emergence of a tournament of this nature, Lonergan and Higgins, met with NRL officials back in August, will do so again, in order to finalise all the details for the tournament.
It was back in August when the first meeting took place, that NRL Communications Director John Brady said: “There was significant i
nterest from the clubs, but there is a lot of work to make it happen.”
For Wayne Scurrah, who is the Chief Executive of the New Zealand Warriors, said that the potential tournament would be a fantastic way to start the season.
“Any concept that brings international football to this country we would be extremely excited about, and it would be a fantastic way to launch the season,” Scurrah said.
Whilst the talk is that the tournament will eventuate in the future, Higgins wishes to confirm that at this stage, nothing is concrete and that there is still work to be done.
“I want to stress it is not a done deal – the NRL and the clubs are doing due diligence. We are in the hands of the NRL and clubs, but it would be a privilege to work with one of the most forward-thinking and innovative sport organisations in the world,” said Higgins.
“We believe it has the potential to become the most iconic, most valuable annual event here, and a fixture for Auckland for generations to come. It would take the sold-out party atmosphere of the Wellington Sevens and the dynamite on-field product of the best players, best clubs and best competition in the world and make the perfect event.”
With the discussions for the venue for the event to take place in, currently being held with Eden Park officials, with the capacity to implement temporary stands at Mt Smart Stadium, that too remains an option.