The Vodafone Warriors will be hosted by the Otara Scorpions when club visits return to the programme leading up to the 2016 Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines.

Visits by all 16 NRL clubs to local Auckland Rugby League clubs were a feature of the build-up to the inaugural NRL Nines in 2014 but were shelved before this year’s event.

In 2014 the Vodafone Warriors visited Marist but this time they will head south to Otara, which boasts try-scoring record holder Manu Vatuvei and the great Ruben Wiki among players who have gone on to make a mark with the Vodafone Warriors.

Otara’s home ground was also the scene for the Vodafone Warriors’ successful season-launching community carnival in 2013 season when an estimated 5000 members and fans attended.

Cronulla Sharks utility Ben Barba was in Auckland for the announcement of the participating clubs at the Mangere East Rugby League Club yesterday.

The grassroots initiative gives thousands of local rugby league club fans and their families a chance to take part in skills and meet and greet sessions when the teams participating in the NRL Auckland Nines tournament at Eden Park on February 6-7 head out into the community.

Mayor Len Brown has welcomed the return of the club programme.

“Fans and local club members are the passionate heart of rugby league,” he said.

“The Nines is unique for having all the NRL teams together and it is great to see the teams getting out to Auckland clubs on their home turf.”

The local clubs will each host a visit from an NRL team on Thursday, February 4 in the lead-up to the Waitangi weekend tournament. The 16 chosen clubs will also receive a $2000 equipment package. One exception will be St George Illawarra which will make its visit on Friday, February 5.

Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) chief executive Brett O’Riley says the club programme is an important part of the wider benefits the Nines bring to Auckland.

“Auckland hosting the Nines helps boost the profile and development of rugby league in Auckland and New Zealand,” he said.

“The club programme takes the stars of the game out into our communities and lets the next generation of players meet their heroes. Auckland clubs taking part in the 2014 club programme signed-up hundreds of new players in a solid example of how hosting this event helps grow the game.”

Tasha Tasmania, chair of the Mangere East Hawks, says the club’s 2014 visit from the Penrith Panthers was a huge hit not just for the club, but for the Mangere community as well.

“Club membership for players new to rugby league skyrocketed up by 30 per cent, we gained new sponsors, our club was greatly promoted through advertising and the local community engagement and involvement we received for this one day,” she said. 

“To host another NRL visit in 2016 is an honour for Mangere East Hawks club and an opportunity for us to build on our successes from 2014. It’s also a chance for our Mangere community to once again meet leaders of the game of rugby league.”

Duco Events chief executive Martin Snedden said: “The NRL Auckland Nines club programme is a great opportunity to give back to the game at grassroots level, and experience the great atmosphere throughout Auckland in the build-up to this incomparable weekend.”

2016 DICK SMITH NRL NINES | CLUB VISITS

Glenora Bears | Cronulla Sharks

Hibiscus Coast Raiders | North Queensland Cowboys

Manurewa Marlins | Melbourne Storm

New Lynn Stags | Sydney Roosters

Northcote Tigers | Wests Tigers

Otara Scorpions | Vodafone Warriors

Pt Chevalier Pirates | Penrith Panthers

Waitemata Seagulls | Newcastle Knights

Bay Roskill Vikings | Canberra Raiders

Mangere East Hawks | South Sydney Rabbitohs 

Marist Saints | Brisbane Broncos

Mt Wellington | Gold Coast Titans

Otahuhu Leopards | Manly Sea Eagles

Pakuranga Jaguars | Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

Papatoetoe Panthers | Parramatta Eels

Papakura Sea Eagles | St George-Illawarra Dragons*

* The St George-Illawarra Dragons’ visit to the Papakura Sea Eagles is on Friday, February 5. All other visits are on Thursday, February 4.

The Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines takes place on February 6-7, 2016. This is the only rugby league event where fans can see all 16 NRL clubs over one weekend, featuring more than 288 star players in 31 action-packed games. Tickets start from $69* and kids are half-price in most ticket categories**. For more information about the tournament, go to: http://nrlaucklandnines.com/

* Service/delivery/venue fees may apply

** (excludes green category)