Chief executive Dave Smitih says the NRL has prepared itself for the game’s best season yet in 2014, both on and off the field.

Chief executive Dave Smith says the NRL has enjoyed the strongest lead-in to a season in recent memory as he launched the rugby league year on Wednesday night.

On the back of the stunning success of the inaugural Auckland Nines earlier this month and the announcement of a profit of almost $50 million for the 2013 financial year, Smith and his executive teams are admittedly bullish heading into 2014.

At the season launch at the Sydney Convention Centre at Glebe Island in Sydney, Smith said the code had every reason to be.

“The Nines has been the highlight of a terrific pre-season for the NRL,” Smith said in his address.

“A pre-season which saw the fierce but friendly rivalry between traditional foes – in both the Charity Shield and the World Club Challenge where the Roosters again established that the world’s best club side comes from Australia.

“On top of this, the NRL has delivered its strongest financial performance on record and set out a clear strategy for the future.

“It’s been an amazing few weeks. The best pre-season in many years. One to whet the appetite of all of our members and fans.

“The 2014 season is going to be bigger and better than ever.”

With the NRL aiming to double club membership to 400,000 by 2017 and grow average crowds to 20,000 over the same period, 600 fans of all 16 clubs were invited to the launch.

Sydney Roosters captain Anthony Minichiello was anointed the face of the game for 2014 and launched the new season.

The tricolours will attempt to be the first side to win back-back first grade titles in a unified competition since Brisbane in 1992-93.

“Even though a ball hasn’t been kicked, we already have plenty to celebrate,” Minichiello said.

“The footy gets more exciting every season. The skill and power of the players today is amazing and the coverage on TV is the best in the world.

“The room tonight is full of players, coaches, referees, sponsors, media, NRL and club officials and, of course, our members and fans, and everyone here tonight is talking about the footy and what we think, hope and dream will happen this season.

“That’s what’s so special about our game.”

The NRL season starts on March 6 when defending premiers the Roosters play bitter arch-rivals South Sydney.