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Newcastle's Willie Mason and Auckland mayor Len Brown doing the draw today for the inaugural Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines. Photo: Photosport

The Vodafone Warriors have been drawn in the same pool as the Canberra Raiders, the Manly Sea Eagles and the North Queensland Cowboys for the inaugural Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines at Eden Park on February 15 and 16 next year.

The Matthew Elliott-coached Vodafone Warriors will begin their campaign against the Raiders the first NRL club Elliott coached at 2.25pm on Saturday, February 15.

The draw, announced in Auckland today, featured an evident pool of death with NRL premiers the Sydney Roosters grouped with the Brisbane Bulldogs, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and the Parramatta Eels.

The pools are:

YELLOW: Vodafone Warriors, Raiders, Sea Eagles and Cowboys

GREEN: Roosters, Eels, Broncos and Bulldogs

BLUE: Sharks, Knights, Tigers and Titans

RED: Storm, Panthers, Rabbitohs and Dragons.

The Sharks and Knights will open the tournament which has been left with many mouthwatering prospects following the draw.

A pool game between two of the games great entertainers 2013 top four sides the Storm and Rabbitohs should be a highlight.

The Pool of Death west Sydney derby between the Eels and Bulldogs will only add to their particular rivalry.

I like the chances of the Vodafone Warriors being one of the two sides to advance from their pool, said Vodafone Warriors legend and former skipper Monty Betham.

The clubs will compete for a New Zealand record $2.6 million in prize money and the chance to win the inaugural Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines title.

The NRLs 16 clubs have all guaranteed to field at least one top five-ranked player alongside at least 12 other players from their top 25.

Some of the stars are already on record as saying they are keen to play in the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines including Sam Thaiday, Willie Mason, Anthony Watmough, Greg Bird, Robbie Farah, Paul Gallen and Todd Carney.

They join rugby league heavyweights like Mal Meninga and Laurie Daley and arguably the game's greatest coach Newcastle Knights mentor Wayne Bennett in backing the new event.

Meninga said the event "will be our advertisement for rugby league around the world'' while Daley forecasts a "wonderful spectacle from some of the best players in the NRL''.

Bennett said the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines "is going to be a great celebration of rugby league and the Knights can't wait to be a part of that''.

Todays draw followed the announcement consumer electronics company Dick Smith has signed on as the tournaments sponsor, the second major partner to sign on for the event along with Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) which will invest $NZ9 million over five years.
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