The Sportsafe ARL Nines kick off at Auckland's Stanmore Bay tomorrow (Saturday February 18), with a new club in contention for the championship title following Papakura's recent withdrawal from the competition.
The dubbed 'team to beat' this weekend, confirmed this morning that they are unable to compete in this year's tournament due to the timing of the event and other sporting commitments.
"Unfortunately, the Papakura Sea Eagles will not be defending their title -they have held for the past two years- at the Sportsafe ARL Nines this year," said Kevin Mitchell, a representative of the south Auckland club.
"The tournament is being held a week earlier than previous years which has impacted a significant number of our players and other sporting commitments this weekend.
"The club is disappointed, but we hope that we can return next year and hopefully reclaim the trophy."
ARL general manager Greg Whaiapu said there's a lot of pressure on players returning to the field at this time, and he understands other commitments have disrupted player participation.
"We appreciate where they're at and understand that many Fox and Sharman players are involved in other sporting commitments."
"Rest assured, there will still be plenty of competition on the field tomorrow.
"There will be a mix of both Fox Memorial and Sharman Cup teams participating. It will give teams the chance to test their skills, coaches to trial any new players and an overall meaningful pre-season.
"I look forward to a great opening season this weekend."
Games will kick off 9am on Saturday morning, with play-offs scheduled for 2.15pm.
The tournament will also be streamed live on the Auckland Rugby League website www.aucklandleague.co.nz for those who are unable to attend.
Join Voxy on Google+.