by Greg Pritchard
Cronulla young gun Jack Bird was a sensation at this year's Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines and threatens to have an even bigger influence when the event is held again in February.
Tickets for the most thrilling event in rugby league can be purchased through the NRL at www.nrl.com/tickets (further details below).
Bird finished as the tournament's equal-leading try-scorer, with four, and he and fellow young star Valentine Holmes were among the main reasons the Sharks did so well in the event. Cronulla made the final and lost 18-14 to South Sydney in extra-time.
If the Sharks want to make another run at the Nines title then players like Bird and Holmes will again be important. That would be fine with Nines fans who support their own team but also want to see the most exciting players from right across the NRL cutting loose.
Fox Sports commentator Greg Alexander, who covered the first two Nines tournaments for the network, is a big fan of both Bird and Holmes.
"Bird did very well at this year's event and Holmes was also impressive. I really liked the footy the Sharks played," Alexander says.
"They went very close to winning the event and while that surprised a lot of people the Sharks deserved to be in the final. Chris Heighington, Wade Graham and Blake Ayshford all made the team of the tournament as well, so it was a big weekend for Cronulla.
"There's no reason the Sharks can't come back in February and do very well again, because they've got a really good mix of experience and exciting young talent."
The 2016 event will be held at Eden Park in Auckland on 6-7 February and tickets to "The Greatest Weekend" are now available at prices ranging from just $NZD69 (approx. $AUD61) for a two-day pass.
Tickets for children are available at half the adult price in most categories.
The biggest stars in the NRL, representing all 16 clubs, will again be playing in the event - including superstars Billy Slater and Shaun Johnson, who have each nominated the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines as their comeback date from major injuries that ended their 2015 NRL seasons early.
It is going to be a great opportunity for league fans to see the best players in the game exercising their super skills on an open field.
There is nothing like this tournament for excitement, with NRL teams facing up against NRL teams in quick succession over one action-packed weekend leading up to the final prize.
The fans will also be able to get up close and personal and watch teams go through their warm-ups for games on the number one field.
There will be a whopping $NZ2.6 million in prizemoney up for grabs at the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines. Don't miss it. This is your chance to see the greatest rugby league players in the world really turning it on for the fans.
TRAVEL PACKAGES ALSO ON-SALE
3 x night packages incl airfares, transfers, accomm and 2 x day ticket from $1,399 pp
4 x night packages incl airfares, transfers, accomm and 2 x day ticket $1,464 pp
5 x night packages incl airfares, transfers, accomm and 2 x day ticket from $1,554 pp
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