Topics: Rugby League, NRL

NRL Nines fever takes over Auckland City

By Raniera Harrison
  • Auckland

Auckland's Aotea Square was well and truly chock-a-blocked today, and you'd expect some good yarns to come out of the place.

288 NRL stars converged on the Downer NRL Auckland Nines Fans Day, held in the heart of the city today, with an estimated 5,000 spectators in tow, to get up close and personal with their favourite players.

North Queensland Cowboys hardman, James Tāmou (Te Ātihaunui-a-Paparangi), however, was more intent on commenting on the state of his homelands football affairs.

"I've always said this - if there was a Māori team in the [Rugby League] World Cup, I would be in there.  One hundred percent have to represent," said the current Kangaroos prop.

A welcome invitation by any means - and because league was the main event, by no means whatsoever was it the only sport on the menu. Ngāpuhi Silver Ferns defender, Kayla Cullen getting a mention today. Speculation finally confirmed she has partnered up with one of the magicians of the Nines format.

"Yes, it's true. Kayla and I are partners.  It's good," admitting Warriors Nines captain, Shaun Johnson today.

Many fans have travelled from overseas, and around the country just to catch a glimpse of what is being described as "the biggest weekend" on the league calendar.

"I've lost a lot of money on the Warriors, and the Hurricanes over the years" laments Simon Itula, who with his wife Vivian, have travelled from Wainuiomata, Wellington for the 2-day league extravaganza.

Penrith Panthers rising star, Te Maire Martin (Tainui) was thankful to be back on home soil and looking forward to playing in front of family, alongside fellow Tainui star, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.

"He's got 30 something people of his family coming, I've got something of that of my family coming so we've got hopefully go good and cant wait to see them."

All in all, a wonderful weekend of wicked league is expected, and Ngāti Mahuta descendant, Greg Eastwood knows exactly where he will be after the final whistle, now that he is home.

"Few of us Māori boys will be visiting some sort of fast food joint after the tournament.  I do love the Whittakers chocolate milk", jokes the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs captain.

Sports journalist Raniera Harrison will have all the updates from the Downer NRL Auckland Nines over the weekend.

You can follow him on Twitter @RanieraHarrison, or Instagram @RanieraHarrison, for the latest.

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