Heighington was joined by the likes of Robbie Farah, Willie Mason, Michael Ennis, Shaun Kenny-Dowell, Adam Reynolds, Jamie Soward and Anthony Watmough as all 15 Australian NRL clubs showcased their Nines playing strips.
The NRL’s Todd Greenburg went on to announce that former premiership-winning Roosters captain Brad Fittler has been ruled eligible to play in the inaugural Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines, which is nearing sell-out status still almost a month before the event kicks off.
Greenberg said the Roosters had applied to the NRL to exercise its discretion to reinstate the retired Fittler for the “specific and sole purpose of competing for the Club” in the two-day, nine-a-side event, in which teams must field at least 12 of their top 25 playing list (including at least one of their top five) in the 16-man squads.
The Sharks have yet to finalise their 16-man team, however it is expected that Todd Carney, Paul Gallen and Andrew Fifita will be a part of the squad heading to Auckland for the event.
Greenberg and event organisers were also thrilled to reveal that interest has been high in the inaugural Nines, with only limited seats remaining before the event is declared a sell-out.
“To attract over 90,000 fans over two days – including more than 10,000 from outside of Auckland – for the inaugural event, which is still 24 days away, is a great achievement,” said Greenberg.
The rush towards a sell-out is no surprise to the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines Managing Director, David Higgins of Duco Events.
“From day one (fellow Duco Events director) Dean Lonergan and I thought the concept was a winner,” Higgins said. “We always thought the event could sell out, but didn’t expect it until a day before the event when the hype is at a premium. To be in this position a month out – that has totally blown us away.”
While it is expected that a handful of Sharks fans will make the trek across the Tasman to cheer the team on at Eden Park, the best place to take in all the action for those staying home is Sharkies Leagues Club, where all games will be shown live on the big screen in the main bar area.
The club will open at 10am on Saturday February 15 and Sunday February 16, with the Sharks first game up on both days. The Sharks in fact open the tournament with a game against the Newcastle Knights on Saturday.
Sharkies are also offering a free barbecue from 11am on the two days of the event, while all members who swipe their membership card over the weekend go into the draw to win a signed Sharks Nines jersey.