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Greenberg casts doubt on 2018 Nines in NZ

NZN 4/02/2017 Angelo Risso and Matt Encarnacion

NRL boss Todd Greenberg admits the Auckland Nines could find a new home next year despite having one year left to run on its contract to play in New Zealand.

Anaemic crowds at Eden Park on Saturday have put a dampener on day one of nines action, despite a number of stars including Johnathan Thurston and Jarryd Hayne taking part.

Crowds at the event have been on the decline since a successful inaugural event in 2014, sliding down to 37,000 last year, well below the stadium's 50,000 capacity.

The 14-team World Cup at the end of the year is also expected to heavily impact player turnout at next year's nines tournament.

Greenberg confirmed the NRL is contractually obliged to host the nines in Auckland until next year, having signed deals with local promoters Duco Events and Auckland Tourism (Ateed).

But both parties would have to come to the table and talk with the NRL about what happens for the 2018 tournament, the final year under the current deal.

Changes may be made, including location, but Greenberg was careful to point out that the event would remain in Auckland if no agreement was reached.

"This is a great event that's got legs in a lot of different markets, including Auckland," Greenberg said.

"We need to think carefully about what the next cycle looks like, so the first people we'll need to talk to are our partners, Duco and Ateed."

Ateed manager Steve Armitage said Auckland wasn't going to give up without a fight.

"We are confident the Downer NRL Auckland Nines will be held in Auckland again next year," he told AAP.

"Discussions regarding the future of the event beyond the five-year term of the current contract are expected to commence with NRL and Duco once the evaluation of the 2017 tournament is complete.

"We are aware with the World Cup timing we may need to discuss with our partners the scheduling of when Nines is held in Auckland for 2018."

He also admitted that beyond the 2018 tournament, the NRL were not likely to sign another five-year deal to host the nines in a single location.

The comments come just days after Greenberg said the 2018 tournament was certain to remain in Auckland.

Venues in Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Perth and Townsville are all reportedly in the frame for the event beyond 2019.

Greenberg also said various international locations including Singapore and North America had expressed their interest to host the nines.

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