Auckland Nines organisers are confident of avoiding further black eyes to the game with players on a tight leash during this weekend’s tournament.
The NRL is under the spotlight again following Mitchell Pearce’s lewd Australia Day video and players breaking curfew at the Queensland Emerging Origin camp.
Cronulla have stood down Valentine Holmes for the Nines after he was arrested in the Fortitude Valley and he has been banned from Queensland Origin selection for 12 months.
Auckland Nines general manager Trina Tamati said organisers were not expecting any scandals with players being given round-the-clock supervision and teams having little time off in New Zealand.
Each side has been assigned a voluntary police officer as well as a representative from organiser Duco Events.
Most sides flew into Auckland on Thursday morning and with training, fan and media events planned over a packed schedule until Friday ahead of Saturday’s kick-off, players have little time to let their hair down until after the tournament’s conclusion on Sunday.
All sides have also been given strict reminders about player behaviour from NRL Integrity Unit head Nick Weeks.
“I don’t think the format of the tournament lends itself to getting into too much trouble,” Tamati said.
“We have absolutely no incidents off the field in the last two years and I don’t anticipate there being any this time around.
“We work really closely with the NRL Integrity Unit and across the board both the players and the public have a really really tight intoxication alcohol management structure.
“We have voluntary police officers with each team for their safety.”
About 40,000 fans are expected for both days of the tournament, just short of Eden Park’s capacity of 45,000.
The event is locked in to be played in Auckland until 2018 with a review of its future likely to start after next year’s tournament.
Clubs are required to send one of their top five players as well as 12 from their top 25.
Some clubs have taken the tournament more seriously than others with Brisbane, North Queensland and Warriors naming many of their top line stars.
Timati said while she would always welcome clubs sending more big names she was happy with the quality of the squads being sent.
“This is the one and only chance New Zealanders get to see all of these guys and to some of these local boys, these guys are their heroes,” Timati said.
“I think everyone looks on it really favourably and the boys that I know want to be a part of it.
“It’s a timing thing with the All Stars, World Club Series and of course the season.
“Some of these clubs can’t afford to lose their fullback or their halfback – we get that. There’s also the Four Nations at the end of this year. It’s a long year for some of these guys.
“But we are really happy with the calibre of players putting their hands up for this tournament.”