The brains trust behind the tournament will introduce five point tries and a new Golden Try in extra-time for the Nines extravaganza, scheduled for Aucklands Eden Park on February 15-16.
The Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines will see the Sharks come up against the other 16 NRL clubs as they compete for $2.6 million in prize-money in New Zealands biggest summer event.
Thirty-one matches will be played over two days, with the Sharks and Newcastle Knights to open the event on Saturday, with the games to showcase some of the most innovative moves in sports.
The Sharks had yet to finalise a squad to travel to Auckland for the Nines, however with the likelihood of Todd Carney and Michael Gordon, along with perhaps new recruit Eric Gorthe amongst the touring party, were confident of a bold showing in the event.
Former Bulldogs, Warriors, Queensland and Kangaroos star Steve Price, on hand for the announcement of the rule changes, was excited by the prospects.
I love the changes. They are a recipe for nine minutes of flat-out footy. There will be blokes screaming for air. Its going to be fast, Price said. The Nines will be brilliant for the fans - it will be a real festival of rugby league.
Traditionalists will be pleased that the tournament will be conducted in accordance with Rugby League Laws of the Game International Level with Notes on the Laws approved by the Australian Rugby League Commission in February.
But the Auckland event has a number of specific and exciting modifications.
Arguably the most exciting is the introduction of a five point try a change which is designed to reward teams for attacking play.
The five-pointer can only be scored in the Bonus Zone located in the in-goal area between the goal posts at each end. All other tries scored outside the Bonus Zone will remain as four pointers.
"The idea of the 5 point try is an exciting new concept, said Nathan McGuirk, the NRL General Manager, Football Operations. It will reward the attacking team who will be looking to pick up the extra point by scoring in the 'Bonus Zone' area.
At the same time, it also offers a good incentive for the defending team to keep chasing the player with the ball and try to prevent him from scoring in the 'Bonus Zone'.
In the event of a match ending in a draw after regular time games will be played over two nine minutes halves - the winner will be the team who scores a Golden Try in extra time.
In qualifying round matches, the duration of the extra time will not exceed five minutes. If no Golden Try has been scored to end the game the match will be deemed a draw, and competition points awarded accordingly.
In the finals, the match will continue until a try is scored - the usual modes of scoring (field-goals and penalty goals will carry no points value during the extra time Golden Try period.
The concept of the extra time Golden Try should also prove exciting for players and fans alike, said McGuirk. I am sure everyone will welcome these new exciting rules for the NRL Nines tournament.
Other rule changes for the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines include:
* Goal-kicks will not feature in the tournament with dropkicks taken in line from where the try was scored worth two points. Penalty dropkicks will be worth two points with a field goal in general play remaining at one point.
* Scrums will consist of five players from each team and will only be used in the event of a double knock-on or a mutual infringement.
* In the event of a successful 40/20 kick, play will recommence with a tap re-start to the kicking team 20 metres in from where the ball crossed the touch line.
* Matches will be re-started by the scoring team through a drop kick off
* Referees will have the power to send players to the sin-bin for five minutes for foul play.
DICK SMITH NRL AUCKLAND NINES
Feb 15 & 16, Eden Park, Auckland