Eden Park: Half Full or Half Empty for Auckland Nines Final

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In its fourth edition, the Auckland Nines did not enjoy the popularity that it did during its first three years, prompting Nines ambassadors Shaun Johnson and Johnathan Thurston to suggest that it might be time to take the show on the road and find an audience outside of New Zealand, even if that means moving the NRL pre-season tournament to somewhere in Asia.

NRL boss Todd Greenberg was noncommittal regarding the venue for next year’ Nines, and having a paid spokesman such as Thurston being adamant about taking the exhibition out of Auckland after the Kiwis failed to show up at Eden Park in sufficient numbers, such as for the small crowd of 25,000 that turned out to see the Sydney Roosters win for the first time.

It could be a case of saturation, as New Zealand rugby fans have an NRL franchise, international play and more than a few regional and state clubs, often with many of the same players, vying for a finite market. New Zealand, after all, has only about 4.5 million souls, and even though the majority would seem to be rugby enthusiasts, there comes a point of too much of a good thing that leads to diminishing returns.