Brad Fittler makes a break for the Roosters during the 2014 Auckland Nines.
Brad Fittler makes a break for the Roosters during the 2014 Auckland Nines. Teaukura Moetaua

Fittler slams Gould's criticism of Auckland Nines

RUGBY league legend Brad Fittler has labelled former coach Phil Gould a "dinosaur" for not supporting the Nines concept.

Days out from the 2017 edition of the Auckland Nines, Fittler took aim at Gould for the latter rubbishing the annual two-day tournament.

Gould issued a series of tweets earlier this month during one of his Q&A sessions explaining to followers why he disliked the pre-season event. Essentially, the Penrith Panthers general manager believes the fast-paced Nines environment is harmful to the NRL-contracted players, with a high risk of injury and little compensation for clubs.

But Fittler, who came out of retirement to play for the Sydney Roosters at the 2015 Nines, says the naysayers better get used to the concept and embrace it.

"Nines isn't a real fabric of our game just yet, but I've got no doubt it will be," Fittler told Fox Sports News 500.

"It's a much more exciting thing to watch and it is rugby league, there's no doubt about that.

"I think some of those dinosaurs like Gus (Gould) might need to twist their thinking a little bit and get on board with the Nines."

Now in its fourth year, the Auckland Nines still has a mixed response from NRL clubs and coaches.

Notably this year Wests Tigers and Penrith have opted not to take a lot of their more high-profile players, essentially because of the injury risk involved.

But Fittler is confident the shortened format could be the perfect vehicle for rugby league expansion.

"I think in 20 years our Nines competition is going to resemble what Twenty20 (cricket) looks like, and also sevens rugby," Fittler said.

"There's no doubt about that. It's a lot more exciting, and you can tell by the way people are attracted to the game - there's going to be 35,000 each day over there at Eden Park.

"I think pre-season should be made up of Nines competitions, whether ones in Auckland, Brisbane and Hong Kong, or whatever it is ... what a great way to show our game to the world."

News Corp Australia