Ewan McDonald: NRL victory for Auckland snatched away

By Ewan McDonald

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Mayor Len Brown at the official welcome ahead of the Dick Smith NRL Nines rugby league competition. Photo: William Booth/www.photosport.co.nz
Mayor Len Brown at the official welcome ahead of the Dick Smith NRL Nines rugby league competition. Photo: William Booth/www.photosport.co.nz

You've heard the old sporting cliche about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

You may have even heard it applied more than once to our NRL club, the Warriors.
But this week league is the city's big winner. Or should have been.

Until the Mayor, council agencies and other sports rained all over the code's successes.

On Monday Mayor Len Brown joined Brett O'Riley, CEO of Ateed (the council's tourism, events and economic development arm), David Higgins of Duco Events and the National Rugby League's Paul Kind to announce February's NRL Auckland Nines tournament delivered $9.35 million to Auckland - more than double the forecast return on investment.

As I've pointed out in earlier editorials, these claims are an illusion or a delusion but the council has put them out there, so we'll run with them.

"The NRL Auckland Nines has blown away all its first-year targets," trumpeted the Mayor.

"The 2014 event resulted in more than 68,000 visitor nights and live television coverage was watched by more than 1 million viewers in Australia - one of our key tourism markets. It is the most successful two-day event on Auckland's calendar."

Read more: NRL Nines reaps $9million return for Auckland

O'Riley said Ateed was looking forward to working with promoters to make the Nines even more successful over the remaining four years of its sponsorship, which totals $9 million over 2014-2018.

Hip hip hooray, three cheers. Well done, great game lads.

Except that Steve Deane reported in the same morning's NZ Herald: "Auckland's NRL Nines tournament is under threat next year because of an impasse between the National Rugby League and organisers of the Cricket World Cup over the availability of Eden Park.

"The contract between Eden Park and Cricket World Cup 2015 states the ground must not host any events in the 30 days leading up to the first match between New Zealand and Australia on February 28, effectively locking down Auckland's biggest stadium from January 27.

"The Herald has been told the NRL will not allow the Nines to be staged before January 30."

Nines general manager Trina Tamati confirmed organisers asked the International Cricket Council to allow the league to be played on January 31-February 1. The ground would be free for 27 days leading up to its first World Cup match. Sod off, said the ICC.

The ICC, Deane reported, appears to have no concerns about the Cake Tin hosting the Wellington Rugby Sevens just 12 days before New Zealand plays England at cricket.

You can't blame the council or Ateed for that fumble on the Eden Park tryline - though you have to wonder about the glorious lack of communication between the various tentacles of our supposedly streamlined local government organisation.

Here's another example:
Last week the Herald On Sunday reported how the council stitched up a deal with Seventies soft-rockers The Eagles for a March 30 concert, possibly two, at Mt Smart Stadium.
Without bothering to check with the Warriors - principal tenants of the stadium, with priority rights to the ground - that it is a key weekend in the NRL season.

Quite rightly, Warriors co-owner Eric Watson is considering legal action against the council.

That became public just a few days after Watson announced, in the best interests of his club, that it would not continue to play NRL matches at Eden Park and would return to Mt Smart.

Read more: Smart call from Warriors

Cockup or conspiracy? Payback, maybe? You decide. But you can be darned sure that rugby or cricket in Auckland wouldn't get this sort of treatment.

?Ewan McDonald is the founding editor of The Aucklander.

- The Aucklander

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