Photo: www.photosport.co.nz

The NRL Auckland Nines, which played to sellout crowds when the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys won the inaugural title earlier this year, will return in 2015.

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The NRL, Duco Events and Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development (ATEED) announced today that the Nines will be held at Eden Park on 31 January and 1 February 2015.

All 16 NRL teams will enter the tournament, which carries prize money of more than $AU2.4 million. 

In a significant change to the rules, the size of each squad has been increased from 16 to 18 – enabling teams to rotate more players and provide them with longer rest periods.

The teams, which have nine players, are split into four groups and play nine-minute halves.

The top two teams from each group advance to the knockout stage of the tournament with the two top teams playing in the final. 

“The atmosphere this year was absolutely brilliant and saw thousands of Australians travel to New Zealand for the event's first year,” NRL head of commercial Paul Kind said.

“Not only does it produce great football but it brings enormous economic benefits to New Zealand.”

A post-event independent evaluation of the 2014 event found that this year’s tournament expanded Auckland’s GDP by $9.35 million, of which $3.24 million came into the New Zealand economy from offshore.

It attracted 16,000 New Zealanders from outside Auckland in addition to the 6,000 Australians who crossed the Tasman to watch the event.

The tournament was globally recognised at the prestigious SportBusiness International Awards in London in April.

Duco Events director David Higgins urged fans to put their names on the Ticketek waiting list to secure seats to the 2015 tournament.

“We expect huge demand for next year’s event and, by using the waiting list, fans can be notified when different categories of tickets go on sale.”

Event travel packages will go on sale in Australia from Monday 8 September through Sportsnet Holidays.

Tickets will go on sale to the general public from 9 October.