Mitchell Pearce during Newcastle's trial game against Melbourne.

A bumper schedule of pre-season football awaits NRL fans in 2018, headlined by the World Club Challenge and a testimonial match for two of the modern-day legends.

Cameron Smith showed no signs of fatigue last season but another jam-packed schedule awaits the Australian skipper in 2018.

Smith will lead the Melbourne Storm into battle against the Leeds Rhinos for the title of best club on the planet on February 16 at AAMI Park before backing up a week later in a testimonial match alongside his long-time Queensland and Australian teammate Johnathan Thurston at Suncorp Stadium. 

The Charity Shield is also set to draw plenty of attention, with two of the game's oldest rivals going head-to-head in Mudgee.

Fans will also get a chance to see their team's latest recruits wear their new colours for the first time, with some even coming up against their old sides in a test of loyalty before the NRL season has even begun.

New Zealand Warriors recruit Tohu Harris's opening chance to play for his new team will be on February 17 against Melbourne in his first club match since he lifted the Telstra Premiership trophy as a member of the Storm in October.

North Queensland Cowboys forward Jordan McLean also gets a chance to take on his former Melbourne comrades with the Australian prop expected to run out against the Storm during the testimonial match-up. 

The pre-season also brings both players and teams back to their spiritual homes. Wests Tigers faithful will get to see one of their favourite sons, Benji Marshall, back at Campbelltown Stadium when they take on the Cronulla Sharks on February 24, while the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs go back to Belmore to take on the Penrith Panthers on the same date.

Rugby league is being taken to all parts of Australian and New Zealand, with matches in Cairns, Mudgee, Maitland, Rotorua and the Sunshine Coast giving fans in regional centres a chance to see the NRL's best up close and personal. 

Week one trials

  • 7 February – Storm v Knights at AAMI Park (3pm local)
  • 10 February – Broncos v Central Capras at Theodore (6pm local)

Week two trials

  • 16 February – Storm v Leeds Rhinos at AAMI Park (8pm local)
  • 17 February – Panthers v Roosters at Panthers Stadium (7.10pm local)
  • 17 February – Bulldogs v Raiders at Sunshine Coast (5pm local)
  • 17 February – Broncos v Titans at Toowoomba (7pm local)
  • 17 February – Sharks v Sea Eagles at Southern Cross Stadium (7.30pm local)
  • 17 February – Cowboys v Wests Tigers at Barlow Park Cairns (7.30pm local)
  • 17 February – Warriors v Storm at Rotorua Stadium (3pm local)
  • 17 February – Dragons v Hull at ANZ Stadium (5.30pm local)
  • 17 February – Rabbitohs v Wigan at ANZ Stadium (7.40pm local)

Week three trials

  • 23 February – Storm v Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium (7pm local)
  • 24 February – Panthers v Bulldogs at Belmore Oval (6.30pm local)
  • 24 February – PNG Hunters v Broncos at Port Moresby (3pm local)
  • 24 February – Sharks v Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium (7pm local)
  • 24 February – Sea Eagles v Roosters at Central Coast Stadium (6.30pm local)
  • 24 February – Titans v Warriors at Sunshine Coast (5pm local)
  • 24 February – Knights v Eels at Maitland No.1 Showground (7pm local)
  • 24 February – Broncos v Wynnum Manly at Kougari Oval (7pm local)
  • 24 February – Rabbitohs v Dragons at Mudgee (7.30pm local)