League: NRL Nines all but guaranteed for Eden Park

The stars of the NRL are set to face-off at a nines tournament at Eden Park in 2014, according to event promoter Dean Lonergan.

While there are still a few stages to be negotiated, Lonergan said he was 99 per cent sure it would go ahead and hopes to have the agreement with the NRL and Auckland Council signed off before Christmas.

Lonergan told Radio Sport this morning he wants to combine the thrill of the Wellington Sevens with the big names of the NRL and believes the event has the potential to be the highlight of the New Zealand sporting calendar.

"The sevens is a fantastic event but the one thing it does lack is stars we can all relate to," Lonergan said. "We think it's going to be big. We're going to bring over the entire NRL."

The Wellington sevens brought an estimated $16 million into the city during the 2010 tournament. Tickets for next year's event sold out within 17 minutes.

NRL marketing director Paul Kind told Radio Sport the tournament would involve all 16 clubs and most of their playing squads.

"It would allow the teams to continue their pre-season and January of 2014 is the date we are working towards," Kind said. "My understanding is the games will last 15 minutes, seven-and-a-half each way. You're talking fast and furious, but bringing more of the rugby league style of play.

"You're still providing great entertainment in terms of high scoring but also bringing in the element of defence under the nines format."

Kind said there is enthusiasm from the clubs about the competition.

"We need to go back to our commission and update them following our last round of chats and the plans are currently back with the clubs' football operations coaching staff for their considerations."

The financial rewards on offer are another incentive, with some estimates of the annual prizemoney reaching $3m. The event would not affect the existing pre-season schedule - clubs would still have three allocated weekends for trial matches - because it would run in late January, a week before the All-Star weekend.

- By Steven Holloway of nzherald.co.nz

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