13 NRL teams will be represented in the VB NSW Cup in 2012 as St George-Illawarra and Canberra return through joint-venture partnerships with Illawarra and Mounties.
The 2012 season will be a 26 round competition which features a number of new initiatives set to reaffirm the VB NSW Cup as the premier feeder competition to the NRL.
The Newtown Jets will break new ground in 2012 as they leave their spiritual home at Henson Park and take their round 15 fixture against the Windsor Wolves to Pioneer Oval Parkes.
On what is the biggest weekend on the Parkes calendar, celebrations will include the Parkes Picnic Races on Saturday and culminate in this historic VB NSW Cup match on the Sunday.
The VB NSW Cup season will also see two unique rounds where three double headers will be played for individual trophies in a three-pool system. The pools will be the Foundation Challenge (Newtown, North Sydney, Western Suburbs and Balmain Ryde-Eastwood), the Battle of the West (Canterbury-Bankstown, Wentworthville, Mounties and Windsor) and finally, the Battle of the Coast (Newcastle, Cronulla, Manly and Illawarra).
NSWRL General Manager Geoff Carr says off the back of a stellar year in 2011, the VB NSW Cup looks set to only further enhance its position as the premier open-age competition in Australia.
“Around 500,000 viewers tuned into watch a thrilling Grand Final between Canterbury-Bankstown and Auckland last year at ANZ Stadium,” Mr Carr said.
“The success of 2011 season coupled with the support of our new sponsor in VB places the VB NSW Cup in a strong position to strengthen the competition.
“There is an ever expanding appetite for quality Rugby League at suburban venues and with the return of St George-Illawarra and Canberra, this will now expand the VB NSW Cup’s footprint into two of Rugby League’s heartland’s in the south coast and western Sydney.
“With games already being at quintessential suburban grounds such as Leichhardt Oval, Henson Park and North Sydney Oval, it exciting to see the return of defending premiers, Canterbury-Bankstown, to a refurbished Belmore Sports Ground.”
The season is set to start on Saturday, March 3, with the 2012 Grand Final again set down for NRL Grand Final day at ANZ Stadium on Sunday, September 30.
2012 VB NSW Cup structure:
NSW Cup club - NRL Affiliate
Auckland Vulcans - New Zealand Warriors
Balmain-Ryde-Eastwood Tigers - Wests Tigers
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs - Own team
Cronulla Sharks - Cronulla Sharks & Melbourne Storm
Illawarra - St George-Illawarra Dragons
Manly Sea Eagles - Own team
Mounties - Canberra Raiders
Newcastle Knights - Own team
Newtown Jets - Sydney Roosters
North Sydney Bears - South Sydney Rabbitohs
Wentworthville Magpies - Parramatta Eels
Western Suburbs Magpies - Own team
Windsor Wolves - Penrith Panthers