Cowboys star Johnathan Thurston will make his Auckland Nines debut.
Cowboys star Johnathan Thurston will make his Auckland Nines debut. MICHAEL CHAMBERS

Thurston wants to share the love for Nines

RUGBY LEAGUE: Cowboys superstar Johnathan Thurston wants to see the NRL's pre-season Nines tournament on the move once Auckland's contract expires next year to help the game grow.

The 33-year-old will take part in his first Nines competition, starting on Saturday, at Eden Park.

Melbourne has already put its hand up to take over hosting duties in 2019, while the Gold Coast, Newcastle, Brisbane, Perth and Thurston's home town of Townsville may also be in the running for the two-day event.

Thurston said the Nines was the perfect way to attract new fans to league.

"It's a very exciting type of league,” he said. "It's fast-paced and there's a lot of tries, that's what they want to see.”

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said on Thursday that the Nines concept was here to stay, if not in Auckland after its five-year contract is up in 2018.

"Nines has a massive future inside rugby league,” he said.

"It has a future at the elite level, and it certainly has a future at the participation and grassroots level. We plan to grow it as best we can.”

More than $2.25 million in prizemoney at stake at the Nines. The winning team pockets $370,000, while teams receive a minimum $110,000 just for turning up.

"It is a very healthy commercial venture for the game and the clubs,” Greenberg said.

Thurston, who missed out on the Cowboys' title when the Nines competition started in 2014, was looking forward to finally being involved.

"The coach (Paul Green) hasn't said how many minutes I'll play, but once I get out there I'll probably want to play every game and he'll hook me,” Thurston said.


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