The Roosters and Rabbitohs both scored last-minute wins against each other last season - they will kick-off the 2013 season.
Rugby League fans can book their seats now to watch the Storm v Bulldogs Grand Final replay in Round 3, Roosters v Bulldogs in Round 6 and Warriors v Broncos in Round 16 as the NRL today unveiled the first 144 exciting match-ups of the 2013 NRL Premiership season.
For the first time in the game’s history, the NRL has given Rugby League fans details of the first 20 rounds of competition, unveiling a 2013 Premiership season that will kick-off on Thursday, March 7, with a blockbuster between traditional rivals, the Roosters and Rabbitohs at Allianz Stadium.
With just 104 days until kick-off, fans can now plan for the first 20 of the 26 regular rounds of the 2013 season that will culminate in the Grand Final on Sunday, October 6.
NRL Interim Chief Executive, Mr Shane Mattiske, said: “This has been the most extensive draw process we have ever undertaken and the result is a great outcome for the game.
“Not only do fans now have certainty around when their team is playing but we have also managed to deliver a schedule of week in week out blockbuster games and new trial timeslots.”
Over 31 weeks of the 2013 NRL Premiership, matches will be played across the country from the traditional home grounds and other capital cities including Darwin and Perth to regional areas including Mudgee and Mackay.
NRL General Manager of Football Operations, Mr Nathan McGuirk, said: “We are all very excited about this draw which better assists fans to make plans for much of the season for the first time.
“Our Club Season Structure Committee (which includes representatives from the Dragons, Bulldogs, Wests Tigers and Broncos), broadcasters and NRL Marketing and Football Operations departments have agreed upon a thrilling spread of matches that enables clubs to maximise crowds and promotional opportunities.
“The opening game between traditional rivals, Rabbitohs and Roosters, on a Thursday night is a great way to start the season, which will also feature four other key matches in this timeslot as well as 13 twilight Sunday night matches.
“In addition we have some of the season’s key clashes in regional centres, as well as the inclusion of the NRL-free Representative Weekend and Good Friday afternoon match following their successful introduction this year.
“Special mention must go to the NRL’s Shaun Wendt and Rick Stone from the Canadian company, Optical Planning Solutions, who worked tirelessly through what was an enormous logistical exercise involving a wide range of variables to produce such an exciting draw.”
Among the many features and innovations are*:
- 13 twilight Sunday night matches and four Thursday night games
- Matches scheduled for Perth (Rabbitohs v Warriors), Darwin (Titans v Panthers) and Mackay (Bulldogs v Knights) – all in Round 17 (July 5-8) - as well as a game in Mudgee (Eels v Titans, Round 11)
- The season-opening round on March 7 also featuring a Broncos v Sea Eagles clash which marks the 25th anniversary of their first premiership match
- A Good Friday afternoon game (March 29) between the Bulldogs and Rabbitohs as well as the Good Friday night game between the Broncos and Storm.
- Men of League Heritage Round (Round 6, April 12-14) featuring the Wests Tigers v Dragons match which marks the 50th anniversary of the trophy photo (Norm Provan and Arthur Summons); and the Manly v Sharks clash which is the 40th anniversary of the 1973 Grand Final and 30th anniversary of the 1983 KB Cup Final
- An NRL-free Representative Weekend (April 19-21) featuring the Australia v NZ Test in Canberra and Country v City Origin in Coffs Harbour
- An Anzac Day double (Thursday, April 25) featuring the Roosters and the Dragons in Sydney and the Storm against the Warriors in Melbourne
- The ‘Pink V’ Dragons hosting the Eels during the Harvey Norman Women In League Round which will be played earlier in Round 10 (May 17-20)
- Origin matches in Sydney (June 5 and July 17) and Brisbane (June 26)
- Rivalry Round (Round 20, July 26-29) kicking off with the Cowboys v Broncos in Townsville and Bulldogs v Eels at ANZ Stadium.
For the full draw, click here
NRL Interim Chief Executive, Mr Shane Mattiske, said: “It is very exciting to be able to give Rugby League fans certainty around almost the entire season for the first time.
“Knowing exactly who is playing, when and where for the first 20 of the 26 regular rounds of competition is a major coup for our fans.
“No doubt games such as the Round 3 Grand Final replay between the Storm and Bulldogs; the Wests Tigers v Sharks clash in Round 9; and the many traditional rivalries and local derbies will provide thrilling contests full of surprise and drama.
“With only 104 days until the season starts and, with so much to look forward to as revealed in the draw today, the countdown to kick-off truly starts now.
“Our Football Operations and Marketing teams have worked closely with clubs and the game’s scheduling committee to construct a draw that will enable clubs to continue to build on their strong crowds and record membership figures of 2012.
“The message to fans is simple. This is what you have been asking for and we strongly encourage you to act now … secure your club membership and your seat at home games, circle the big matches on your calendars, make the most of flight specials and get behind your team wherever and whenever they play.”
For the full draw, click here
Download a PDF version of the draw