Two Friday Night blockbusters to kick off Rivalry Round

A series of blockbuster matches are poised to shape an exciting race to the Telstra Premiership Finals Series, starting with the NRL Rivalry Round which kicks off on Friday night.

With just eight rounds to go before the Telstra Premiership Finals – and just eight points separating third place from 13th – representatives from six of the Sydney NRL Clubs today launched Rivalry Round, urging their fans to help them overcome traditional foes in their quests for finals berths.

Sydney clubs are celebrating record levels of club membership in 2010 with Sydney crowds up 10.8% on this time last year and crowds in western Sydney up 15.9%,prompting Roy Asotasi (Rabbitohs), Andrew Ryan (Bulldogs), Tim Mannah (Eels), Tim Grant (Panthers), Gareth Ellis (Wests Tigers) and Anthony Minichiello (Roosters) to highlight the important role fans play in the run to the finals.

“This is a massive game for us and we need all our members and fans to come out to ANZ Stadium on Friday night and get behind us,” Rabbitohs captain Asotasi said of his side’s match against the Dragons.

“We have a great rivalry with the Dragons. Our members and fans look forward to this clash every season and this is going to be another memorable one.”

Fresh from a stunning victory over the Cowboys last night, Eels and NSW forward Tim Mannah said the derby clash with the Panthers at CUA Stadium on Saturday night was vital for his side to enhance their push for a top-eight spot.

“It was a great win over the Cowboys but we need to build on that this weekend,” Mannah said.

“I’m a Parramatta junior and I know how much it means to our fans to beat the Panthers and hopefully we will give them plenty to cheer about on Saturday night.”

The Roosters-Bulldogs clash on Sunday at the SFS also takes on special significance with Roosters captain Braith Anasta playing his 200thmatch and Bulldogs halfback Brett Kimmorley his 300thmatch.

“Every time we have played the Roosters over the past few years there has been plenty at stake and this time is no different,” Bulldogs captain Ryan said.

“To play 300 games at this level is an amazing achievement and all the boys want Noddy to be able to celebrate it with a win.

“We have strung a few victories together now but we know we have to keep winning if we are going to be a chance to make the top eight.”

Roosters fullback Anthony Minichiello added: “It’s a special occasion for Braith but it’s also a big game for the club.

“Every match has a bearing on the top eight and we need to keep winning. We have a great rivalry with the Bulldogs and hopefully there will be a big crowd there at the SFS on Sunday to cheer us home.”

Rivalry Round marks the official start of the Telstra Premiership ‘Glory Bound Rounds’ and the countdown to the Telstra Premiership Finals.

The Round 19 Rivalry Round draw is:
Friday-16 July, 2010
Rabbitohs Vs Dragons - ANZ Stadium 7.35pm
Titans Vs Broncos - Skilled Park 7.35pm

Saturday 17 July, 2010
Warriors Vs Storm - Mt Smart Stadium 7.30pm(5.30pm Syd time)
Panthers Vs Eels - CUA Stadium 7.30pm
Sharks Vs Sea Eagles - Toyota Stadium 7.30pm

Sunday 18 July, 2010
Raiders Vs Knights - Canberra Stadium 2.00pm
Roosters Vs Bulldogs - Sydney Football Stadium 3.00pm

Monday 19 July, 2010

Wests Tigers Vs Cowboys - Leichhardt Oval 7.00pm

Tickets for all matches are available from www.nrl.com/tickets.