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NRL boss Dave Smith believes the success of the inaugural nines tournament in Auckland will help rugby league's campaign to have the concept included as a medal sport at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
Nines is being played as a demonstration sport at this year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and Smith said the opening day of the tournament at Eden Park had proved how good the truncated version of the game could be.
With only four fewer players per team compared to eight fewer in rugby union sevens, Smith said Nines was closer to the full version of the code and the lack of crowd problems showed fans had enjoyed the action. ''If you look at what has happened today and the spectacle, a lot of people would stand up and take notice of that,'' Smith said.
''I think the Commonwealth Games is a good place to go. It is an under-19s tournament [in Glasgow] and it is part of the festival before the Commonwealth Games so I think that is the starting place.
''But if you look at the way the game is played, if you look at the competition, look at the sheer entertainment, it has been terrific and much better than sevens. It is close enough to the main game and it has been fantastic.''
With 8000 fans having flown from Australia to watch the tournament, there was a carnival atmosphere at Eden Park as many spectators turned up in fancy dress.
After making a commitment to stage the tournament in Auckland for at least three years, Smith predicted the Nines would get bigger and bigger. ''It is all about expansion and growth,'' Smith said. ''Rugby league is pretty strong and healthy so the question is where do you take it and how do you leverage that.
''The atmosphere has been fantastic and the product worked really well so it has been a huge success and there are lots of things we can do with it.
''Fundamentally it is about growth, and there are 25,000 people here today from outside Auckland and 8000 from Australia so we've sparked an interest and we have captured an imagination. The players are really enjoying it, the fans are having a fantastic time, it's real entertainment. Rugby league is about expansion, it is about growing, it is about thinking bigger and no doubt this is a great example of that.''
Despite the fact many fans were drinking in the sun for up to eight hours, Smith said New Zealand police and stadium security had reported few problems.
''People have really come to watch the footy and I don't think they have been disappointed. I have talked to the police, I have talked to the security and everybody is really happy. There are street parties outside the stadium too and the atmosphere has been great.''