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Nines an audition for new game plans and new talent

A chance to experiment and get away from scripted attacking sets could prove the biggest drawcard of the World Cup 9s.

The Nines is a chance for teams to work on a new style of attacking footy while still playing within a structure.

Nines is a different style of football to 13-a-side but the difference isn't as big as rugby sevens going down from 15-a-side where it's almost a totally different sport.

Even fast and mobile rugby players aren't necessarily good at rugby sevens where there's a totally different attitude to attack, defence, field position, everything.

Despite a few years of clubs competing at the Auckland Nines, this style of rugby league is still in its infancy so no-one really knows yet the best way to play it, and the coaches are still working out how to coach it.

There is a lot of room for evolution in this format of the game.

It should accentuate a lot of the things that are good about our game: ball runners in open space, players beating their opposite one-on-one, footwork, athleticism, raw speed.

Nine players to watch at the World Cup 9s

I know how excited I get when I see someone like Josh Addo-Carr in open space.

I'm also interested to see what kind of plays are put on.

There is a chance to get away from the highly structured block plays and second-man plays that coaches in the modern game love. It's a chance to throw the ball around more and take a bit more risk.

Fewer bodies on the field means more space but it won't be a total free-for-all – there is still the chance to put some plays on.

How the inaugural Rugby League World Cup 9s will work

Defensive structures will still be important so it will be interesting to see how the various teams approach that.

The ball-players that really understand how to use space should excel.

The natural tendency on a rugby league field is to gravitate towards space and as a ball-player, you're trying to send your runners into that space.

The beauty of the 13-man game is with so little space you have to be ultra-precise with your passing and the lines you run which the Storm and Roosters have been so good at.

With more space on field in Nines, the players that really understand how to use space will excel while others could still end up crabbing across field and not finding the holes as much.

It will be up to the main ball-players – guys like Mitch Moses and Daly Cherry-Evans for Australia, plus Shaun Johnson and Dylan Brown for the Kiwis – to come up with different ways of attacking.

World Cup 9s Player Focus: Dylan Brown

Will you end up spreading it wide early and often, kicking early, putting in chip kicks – or will most of the attack end up coming from the edge forwards like Wade Graham, Viliame Kikau and Tevita Pangai jnr?

Those edge forwards could have a huge say in the Nines.

Not just in terms of running their lines and getting offloads away but if you sit the fast guys like Addo-Carr out on the wing and the defence has to spread out to mark up on them, that opens it up for those big guys with a bit of footwork.

The other big positive for this weekend is we could unearth some hidden gems from among the lower-profile teams.

People are going to be watching – NRL coaches will be there watching their own players on national duty and recruitment manages will also have an eye out.

World Cup 9s Player Watch: Maika Sivo

It's a huge opportunity for unknown players, regardless of what the score is or if their own team is getting pumped, to showcase their skills in front of a potential coach.

Imagine a player you've never heard of in the USA or PNG side burns Addo-Carr on the outside or breaks through the middle of a forward pack that includes Tyson Frizell and Jai Arrow. You'd stand straight up and say "who was that?"


For ticket and travel packages for the Downer Rugby League World Cup 9s Sydney 2019, head to

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Manly Warringah Sea Eagles respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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