The NRL today released the schedule for the final six rounds of the Premiership which includes a series of blockbuster matches.
The Bulldogs, Brisbane, Melbourne, St George Illawarra and Penrith will all host crucial matches in marquee timeslots during the closing rounds.
Some of the highlights of the finalised schedule include:
• A Saturday night match between North Queensland Cowboys and Melbourne Storm at 1300Smiles Stadium in Round 21;
• A Saturday night derby in Round 23 between St George Illawarra and Cronulla Sharks at UOW Jubilee Oval;
• North Queensland Cowboys superstar Johnathan Thurston returning to Belmore Oval on Thursday night in Round 25;
• The final match at Pirtek Stadium before redevelopment – Parramatta’s game against St George Illawarra in Round 25 (the Eels and the St George Dragons faced off in the first match at the ground in 1986);
• Manly captain Jamie Lyon’s final match at Brookvale Oval, on Saturday afternoon in Round 25 against Canberra;
Round 25 will also see the Bulldogs and the Cowboys, as well as Melbourne and the Broncos, feature on Thursday and Friday nights respectively.
The final round (Round 26) will feature one of the biggest matches of the year between competition heavyweights Melbourne and Cronulla at AAMI Park.
It will also feature Corey Parker playing his final regular-season match at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night.
That will be followed by the 2014 grand finalists, South Sydney and the Bulldogs, potentially playing off for crucial finals positions on Friday night.
The final match of the NRL Telstra Premiership season will see the Panthers play Manly at Pepper Stadium on Sunday, September 4.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said the final six rounds would provide some crucial match-ups which would ultimately decide the make-up of the top eight, the top four and also the minor premiership.
"We know there will be huge interest in those rounds as the teams battle for a place in the Finals," he said.
"We are no doubt headed for another close finish. As usual this is a competition which will likely keep us all guessing until the very last match."
The NRL has worked with the broadcasters as well as the RLPA to reduce the number of five day turnarounds across the 26 rounds of the Telstra Premiership.
There will be a total of 43 five-day turnarounds in 2016, compared to 46 in 2015 – despite the one-off Thursday to Monday schedule this year.
The NRL will seek to reduce the number of five-day turnarounds further with the implementation of a Thursday to Sunday cycle in 2017.
For the full schedule for the final six rounds, please visit nrl.com
For tickets to the NRL Telstra Premiership, please visit nrl.com/tickets