Nines faces axe as NRL feels virus after-effect
The coronavirus pandemic is set to claim another victim - the NRL Nines tournament.
Blindside can reveal the NRL's version of Twenty20 cricket is likely to be axed once again, with the COVID-19 saga putting a major strain on the code's finances and funding available for major events.
The Nines carnival in Perth this year was a financial disaster, with a lack of promotion in an AFL-dominated city understood to have seen the NRL lose around $2 million on the event.
Despite the deficit, NRL hierarchy were keen to keep the Nines alive, with the governing body exploring possible locations in Newcastle and Canberra for the 2021 tournament.
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But the coronavirus crisis has changed those plans. The NRL has discussed putting the Nines on ice, at least for 12 months, as the code seeks to pick up the pieces financially next season.
The Nines has a colourful and chequered history. It was a smash hit in its inaugural season in 2014 in Auckland, only for the Nines to be put on hold for two years in 2018-19 following dwindling crowds at Eden Park.
The Nines made a return to the calendar this year, but the venture to Perth has been a blow for the credibility of the carnival pre-season event. Townsville was also mooted as a potential host next year but the future of the Nines is now uncertain.
DON'T STOP EXPANSION
AUSTRALIA's most experienced TV-rights negotiator says the NRL must expand and cannot ignore the benefits of a second team in Brisbane.
Global Media boss Colin Smith, who helped the NRL broker their broadcasting contract under CEO David Gallop in 2007, says the code needs a team to rival the Broncos as rugby league prepares to announce a new TV rights deal on Friday.
"The NRL has to have a second Brisbane team," said Smith, who has 30 years' experience in TV rights talks.
"There has to be another team sooner rather than later. The NRL is currently fighting for survival, so whether the current 16 clubs would support it is questionable.
"I was also pushing for the NRL to look at another team in Brisbane. But I said it can't be a relocated team from Sydney because Brisbane is a parochial market and they won't accept some southerners sending up a discard team. That won't be embraced.
"Brisbane being a one-team town, even in this coronavirus environment the NRL should be thinking about another team."
MINI SPEAKS OUT
Minichiello returned to the Titans earlier this year as what the club described as an "external consultant", and conducted three "education sessions" with the players about diets, preparation and wellbeing.
Minichiello was praised by coach Justin Holbrook for his input with the squad, but he is now on the nose after an Instagram post where he took aim at the NRL following the flu-jab saga.
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The game of rugby league is meant to be a game for the community, a game where players are tight and have each others backs. I’m not seeing this at the moment. I’m seeing a sport dictate to & isolate their players under government pressure. Surely the @nrl have a bigger backbone than to turn on its own players that have the courage to stand up for their human rights. I would also say to players of today, stand up for your teammates, We cannot accept this coercion and manipulation of individual players, We cannot turn our backs on the players who have courage to stand up for what is right to them. It’s a fundamental human right to choose what can or cannot go into your own body. The fact the NRL are not standing up for their players rights of pro choice shows me they have mis managed the game for years and are now in a situation financially where they need to bow down to government demands to get the game back on the field as soon as possible. It takes very little research to prove that this is not about protecting against CV19. The Australian government immunization handbook states vaccines must be given voluntarily in the absence of undue pressure, coercion or manipulation. Well @scottmorrisonmp “no jab, no play” is in fact coercion and manipulation at the highest level. We need to wake up and look at what is coming down the road. If you don’t stand up now for freedom of choice then the precedent is set and our future, our kids future will be WITHOUT freedom of choice. How do you sit with that? Time to stand up for our civil rights & most importantly the TRUTH! This isn’t about what choice is right or wrong, it’s about the right to CHOOSE and be respected and treated fairly for it. #standup #togetherwerise #unifynotdivide #medicalfreedom #freedomofchoice
JOE'S AT THE WHEEL
THE fiancee of Brisbane Broncos prop Joe Ofahengaue was a relieved woman this week.
Ofahengaue got his licence back after having it suspended three months ago following an alcohol-related incident.
Ofahengaue lost his licence after being caught by police sleeping in his car with the engine turned on, and recording a blood-alcohol level of 0.136, nearly three times the legal limit.
Ofahengaue's partner, Sofi Leota, is nine months' pregnant with the couple's first child, and is due any day.
She had been waking up early to drive Ofahengaue to training after the Broncos returned last week.
THEY say blondes have more fun. Just ask the Brisbane Broncos.
During the coronavirus saga, a number of players have reached for the peroxide, including David Fifita and Kotoni Staggs, but Jesse Arthars is the last blond remaining at Red Hill.
"A few of the boys in isolation got around with it (bleached blond hair) so I thought I would jump on board and do it," Arthars said.
"Davey (Fifita) nominated me so I think he was the first one to do and a few of us have done it. Kotoni has done it as well, but they all got haircuts now and died it back so I'm the only one standing.
"I will probably get rid of it soon … it's just a phase."
THE Melbourne Storm was hacked this week.
Suspicious emails appeared in Blindside's account from Storm football manager and club legend Ryan Hoffman.
The emails were from Hoffman's official Storm email account and contained links to scam websites.
The Storm have been trying to get to the bottom of the drama.
Originally published as Nines faces axe as NRL feels virus after-effect