The NRL has laid-out its 2021 pre-season plans to clubs, which has included a high-profile casualty.
The NRL has laid-out its 2021 pre-season plans to clubs, which has included a high-profile casualty.

Nines axed in pre-season revamp

The return of the pre-season Nines concept has lasted just one year with the tournament again placed on the scrap heap.

Club bosses were told the Nines competition - which took place in Perth for this first time this year after a two-year hiatus and ran at a financial loss - was not part of the pre-season calendar for next year in a phone hook-up with NRL boss Andrew Abdo.

The tournament was held in Auckland from 2014-2017 before its return in Australia this year. It failed to generate the money needed to be profitable and given the COVID-19 crisis, the game is looking to save any dollar it can.

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The Nines tournament, which was held in Perth this year, has been scrapped. Picture: Getty Images
The Nines tournament, which was held in Perth this year, has been scrapped. Picture: Getty Images

What won't be lost to the pre-season is the annual All-Stars match. The game is tentatively slated for February 21 before the competition proper kicks-off on March 11 - a day earlier than the start to this season.

Some clubs expressed their concerns around the timing of the All-Stars match given how late this year's season will run for the game's elite players. The final State of Origin match will be played on November 18, meaning player's who are part of that extended squad will not be due back to pre-season training until the new year.

Clubs are worried their best players would have limited preparation with their team before they need to release them again for the All-Stars match. Clubs are likely to have pre-season trials either side of the All-Stars game.

 

Jason Taumalolo led the Cowboys to victory in the Perth Nines in February. Picture: Getty Images
Jason Taumalolo led the Cowboys to victory in the Perth Nines in February. Picture: Getty Images

Abdo again stressed the importance for the people within each club's 55-person bubble to adhere to the strict biosecurity protocols given the breaches in recent days.

The NRL also hinted they would explore the potential of revamping the protocols ahead of next season if again the country is caught up in the pandemic.

Clubs have asked for looser restrictions to enable players to enjoy some basic freedoms as the angst grows among those inside the bubble in recent weeks.

NRL's head of football Graham Annesley also took part in the phone hook-up and gave the clubs a general warning about the planned crackdown on crusher tackles. The increased prevalence of the dangerous tackle has caused widespread concern in the game.

Clubs were also told the NRL were continuing discussions with the RLPA regarding squad sizes and the salary cap figure for next season. There has been a push to reduce squad sizes to about 28 and a drop in the salary cap of up to five per cent.

Originally published as Nines axed in pre-season revamp



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