The New Zealand Rugby League has evidence it regards as proof the domestic game has emerged from the doldrums.
NZRL chief executive Jim Doyle yesterday said player numbers increased by more than 50 per cent last year. Player data compiled by the NZRL showed participation numbers had climbed by 52 per cent since 2009, with the overall total of players swelling to more than 24,000.
"It has been a tremendous year for the game at the highest levels, with the Kiwis winning the Four Nations, Benji Marshall winning the Golden Boot, the Junior Kiwis doing so well and the Warriors also performing superbly in the National Rugby League and the National Youth Competition," he said.
"But while we're all thrilled with those successes it's just as pleasing for us to see the fantastic growth in the game at grass roots level.
"When the Kiwis won the World Cup two years ago, rugby league in this country was in crisis on a number of levels."
The areas with the biggest increases were Manawatu (400 per cent) and Taranaki (109 per cent) in the Mid Central zone, the Northern zone (128 per cent) and the Counties-Manukau zone (108 per cent), while in the Upper Central zone, Coastline showed a 90 per cent increase and Waikato 57 per cent.
The Auckland zone was up 49 per cent.