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Nines should be moved around: Thurston

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 3/02/2017 Angelo Risso

Cowboys superstar Johnathan Thurston has called on the NRL to give Australian communities the chance to host the Nines.

Taking part in his first Auckland Nines tournament, the 33-year-old playmaker said the event should be moved elsewhere to grow rugby league in new markets.

The NRL are reportedly keen to piggyback on the success of tennis' Australian Open by moving the Nines to Melbourne in 2019, after Auckland's contract is complete.

Venues on the Gold Coast, Newcastle, Brisbane, Perth and Thurston's home town of Townsville may also be in the running for the two-day event.

The NRL has made $NZ9 million through the Nines since 2014, which it then distributes to clubs.

"We've got to try and get new fans to the game, this is a perfect example of getting new fans, it's a very exciting type of league," Thurston said.

"It's fast-paced and there's a lot of tries, that's what they want to see."

Considered a future immortal of rugby league, Thurston has won two Premierships, 10 State of Origins and a Rugby League World Cup.

But the Queenslander missed out on the Cowboys' Nines triumph in 2014, rested for the inaugural Eden Park tournament.

He said he and his teammates, including rampaging Kiwi lock Jason Taumalolo, weren't putting too much pressure on themselves to smash the opposition.

They were keen to build up their match fitness for the 13-a-side season ahead, and enjoy the festive atmosphere.

"The coach 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.

Contracted through to the end of this season, Thurston said he was likely to retire at the end of the 2018 campaign.

But negotiations on a contract to see him through to the end of his playing days were being held up by uncertainties surrounding the salary cap.

The current $A7m ($NZ7.4 m) cap is predicted to increase in line with a new broadcast deal from 2018, but a collective bargaining agreement has not yet been confirmed.

The delay has made signing players from 2018 difficult.

Thurston said he'd discuss the matter this weekend with representatives from the Rugby League Players Association.

"It's frustrating for a lot of players and clubs, trying to sign players for the coming years when (they) don't know what the salary cap will be," Thurston said.

"I've been pretty vocal in the past about players' rights and standing up for what players want, and that'll be no different."

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