The 16 NRL clubs pin-point the highlights of their draw for the 2016 Telstra Premiership season.
In a win for Broncos' members and fans, the club will host all their biggest rivals next year, including fellow 2015 finalists the Cowboys, Rabbitohs, Roosters, Dragons, Storm and Bulldogs as well as a date with the rejuvenated New Zealand Warriors. Importantly, the Broncos will open their home season with a game we have not seen for two years – a Trans-Tasman battle against the Warriors.
The Raiders will play five of their first eight home matches of the season at home against the Panthers, Roosters, Titans, Sharks and Tigers, with the chance to start the season with some strong home form and set up a run at the NRL finals for the first time since 2012. The Raiders will also have the opportunity to host a home match during the Anzac Day weekend, when they play the Tigers on Saturday April 23 at GIO Stadium.
A feature of the Titans' draw is a road trip that includes a clash with South Sydney in Perth (Round 13, Sunday June 5) and Parramatta in Darwin (Round 14, Saturday June 11) in successive weekends. CEO Graham Annesley and head coach Neil Henry will liaise with the NRL to turn the back-to-back games into a promotional tour where the team will go into camp and support grass roots development in both cities over the two-week period.
"We could turn that into a real positive a mid-season camp environment right at the halfway mark of the 26 rounds after having a bye and as the Origin period begins," coach Henry said. "It could be a good opportunity to freshen up and break up our routine."
Melbourne will enjoy a number of marquee fixtures again in 2016, including the return of Storm's traditional Anzac Day blockbuster against the Warriors at AAMI Park. The club will also take part in a historic double-header to be played at Suncorp Stadium in Round 10, hosting the Cowboys in Brisbane before the Sea Eagles face the Broncos on the same night.
"We've been talking to the NRL about hosting the Warriors again on Anzac Day at AAMI Park for quite some time now," said Storm CEO Dave Donaghy. "It's a marquee fixture for us and it's terrific for our members and fans that it will return in 2016.
"It's also terrific to see the double-header come to life. Storm has strong ties to Queensland. In building this event we recognised the wider opportunity and focused on delivering some of the best teams in the NRL."
The defending premiers will play 2014 premiers the Rabbitohs at Barlow Park on Sunday July 3 in one of several NQ blockbusters confirmed for the season. And while it will be an official Souths home game, the match is expected to draw fervent Cowboys support given the Far North Queensland city is squarely in Cowboys country.
"This Round 17 game is going to be fantastic drawcard for our members and supporters in the Cairns region," said Cowboys CEO Greg Tonner. "We except Barlow Park to be packed with screaming fans in what will be a memorable afternoon for the Cowboys and the NRL."
The Eels will play nine home games at Parramatta's Pirtek Stadium, two at ANZ Stadium at Sydney Olympic Park and host the Gold Coast Titans at TIO Stadium in Darwin, the club's home away from home in the Northern Territory.
"We're delighted with our draw, particularly our home game in Darwin against the Gold Coast Titans across the Queen's birthday long weekend in June," Parramatta Eels Acting CEO John Boulous said.
"Not only will we be able to put on a great game of rugby league in the Territory and continue our community and game development efforts, but it provides more opportunity for our Sydney Members and fans to be able to travel to the game and get a first-hand experience of everything the Top End has to offer."
Among a host of other featured games, the Rabbitohs will again take home games to Perth and Cairns in 2016, with the first of the road-trips set down for Round 13, when the club faces the Gold Coast Titans on June 5 at nib Stadium in Perth, before bringing the NRL back to Cairns in Round 17 on Sunday July 3, when they take on reigning premiers, the North Queensland Cowboys, at Barlow Park for the first time.
The Cairns clash will signal the beginning of a month-long festival of 'home' football for the Rabbitohs, who will also take on the Brisbane Broncos (ANZ Stadium), the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (Allianz Stadium), and the Canberra Raiders (ANZ Stadium) as they head into the back-end of the season.
Apart from the historic New Plymouth home game announced on Monday, the release of the full draw has revealed the Warriors will play away games in Wellington and Christchurch on top of trials already set for Nelson – another first – and Whangarei.
"It's our goal to make the Vodafone Warriors more accessible for fans throughout New Zealand so it's hugely exciting knowing we'll be playing at five venues outside Auckland in 2016," said Warriors managing director Jim Doyle.
Wests Tigers will open the season at home to the New Zealand Warriors at Campbelltown Sports Stadium — a side they thrashed 50-16 when they met at the venue in the penultimate round of the 2015 season. The club will follow that up with another home game the following week at Leichhardt Oval against the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles on Monday night.
Wests Tigers members and fans will be pleased to see Sunday afternoon football return to Leichhardt Oval in Round 7 — with the club looking to make it two wins in a row against the Storm after a memorable win at the venue in 2015.
The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs are excited to announce that the NRL side will play a 'home' match against the New Zealand Warriors at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, in 2016.
"It's no secret that with the large number of New Zealand born players in our squad that we have a huge following in New Zealand," Bulldogs CEO Raelene Castle said. "With the local support that the Warriors enjoy in Wellington this will be an opportunity for us to put on an event that we hope the whole region will come out and enjoy."
Eight Sunday afternoon games over the first 20 rounds, five of those at Shark Park, has Sharks Group CEO Lyall Gorman excited about the 2016 season.
"Having the five Sunday afternoon games provides us with wonderful opportunities to entertain families and for us to continue to engage deeply with our members and fans," Gorman said. "We were rated as having the best game day atmosphere in an official 2015 survey and having those Sunday games allows us to be able to take this to new heights."
The Sea Eagles and New Zealand Warriors will light up Western Australia with a blockbuster match announced at Perth’s nib Stadium on Saturday 16 July at 5.30pm (EST).
"It's always a great contest between the Sea Eagles and Warriors. The high number of Kiwis playing for both clubs adds to the occasion given the large expatriate community living in Perth," Manly Warringah CEO Joe Kelly said. "This promises to be a great match played in front of a huge crowd at Perth's premier rectangular stadium."
Head coach Nathan Brown has given his appraisal of the Newcastle Knights’ draw following its official release by the NRL on Friday.
Excitingly, the draw features a number of blockbuster games against opponents who haven’t appeared at Hunter Stadium for a number of seasons.
"Getting Manly (Sea Eagles) at home for the first time in a long time, being the nearest thing to a local derby, is a good one. Manly having a great strong squad, and it being on Anzac Day, one would think it will attract a great crowd and should be a great occasion," Brown said.
The Panthers will open the 2016 season against the Raiders in Canberra on Saturday 5th March. The first chance for Panthers fans to see their team at Pepper Stadium will be a hugely anticipated clash against the Bulldogs in Round 2, on Thursday 10th March.
Now it's official! Pencil in the key dates Roosters fans, because 2016 is very much here.
With plenty of outstanding NRL action to enjoy, from the epic Round 1 Sunday blockbuster against the rival South Sydney Rabbitohs, to welcoming Roger Tuivasa-Sheck home with his new club in Round 5 or the traditional Anzac Day clash with the Dragons, this year is going to be something special.
The Dragons' first home match of the season will see us host the South Sydney Rabbitohs in a Round 3 blockbuster fixture at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday, March 20.
This Sunday afternoon feature game (4.00pm) will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Dragons achieving the world-record 11 consecutive Premierships between 1956 and 1966, one of the most significant achievements in the history of Australian sport.
“All the staff and players have been just as eager as our Red V Members and fans to get a look at what our draw looks like for 2016,” said Dragons Head Coach Paul McGregor.
“Today’s release provides us with the opportunity to get a little more specific with our planning and the staff are on it straight away, particularly given all the travel at the front end of the season”.
Full 2016 NRL draw
Club-by-club draw: What you need to know
NRL draw: Top 10 clashes of 2016
How tough is your team's draw?
Top 10 road trips in 2016