2014 Draw: More stars to play big games
Heat and the impact of Origin on the Telstra Premiership are two of the major issues the NRL have addressed in the construction of the 2014 draw to be released on Wednesday.
Over the first three rounds of the competition just one game will be played under the sun, finally relieving the players of running out in extreme conditions.
"We've obviously taken the concerns of our players and coaches from last season in that we will look to minimise afternoon matches for the opening three rounds next season," the NRL's general manager of football operations, Nathan McGuirk, told NRL.com.
"We'll see that seven of the eight matches of the first three rounds played either at night-time or twilight timeslots which will alleviate some of the concerns of players, coaches and also our fans."
The NRL have also moved to ensure that each club's marquee games will not be affected by the gruelling Origin schedule. One of last year's grand final rematches between the Storm and Bulldogs was devoid of their Origin stars.
"We obviously try to place byes strategically through that particular area of the season to help compensate teams that are heavily affected by State of Origin and its impact on clubs," McGuirk said.
"So we obviously also try and reserve marquee events or match-ups from our stand down Origin rounds when our superstars aren't playing and reserve those for rounds outside that time period.
"Two of our key features of our five-year strategic plan is to grow crowds and memberships, and grow ratings. So delivering a draw which features marquee events or marquee match-ups into our key viewing timeslots is vitally important. That's been one of our focuses with the construction of this year's draw.
"When fans get to see the 2014 draw, they'll see an array of marquee matches across all of our major timeslots which is very exciting for everyone."
While there were some concerns over the introduction of fixed scheduling, McGuirk said the NRL would continue to persist with the idea and have made changes were deemed necessary.
"It's difficult to say [whether it was successful] over just one year. It's quite a small sample in terms of us seeing how it actually worked," McGuirk said.
"We've learnt some lessons from last year into 2014, which we've tried to implement in the 2014 draw. But overall, fixed scheduling was something that was key for not only our clubs, but also our fans and members.
"They wanted to know when their teams were playing well in advance, rather than the rolling schedule that had been previously in place. We've listened to our fans, listened to our members in delivering those changes that we implemented last year."