The National Rugby League (NRL) today released the 2021 Telstra Premiership schedule which celebrates a return to traditions, giving our fans back their favourite events and fiercest rivalries in the best timeslots.
2021 will herald:
The return of a 25-round home and away season.
The return of rugby league to Melbourne and New Zealand.
The return of Magic Round Brisbane, delivered by KFC.
The return of the Ampol State of Origin Series in the winter.
The return of ANZAC Day and Easter traditions.
And a larger national footprint with 19 cities and towns hosting NRL matches.
“March 11” will become the new “May 28” with the game working towards a common goal of implementing Round 1 as scheduled and in full on March 11.
The 2021 Premiership kicks off on Thursday, March 11, with Premiers Melbourne Storm hosting a home game at AAMI Park for the first time since Round 3 in 2020. The Storm will take on Preliminary Finalists South Sydney Rabbitohs in a blockbuster opening round to the season.
The Kevin Walters era at the Brisbane Broncos begins on Friday night in Round One with a clash against Parramatta Eels at Suncorp Stadium. The Warriors, who were forced to relocate to Australia in 2020, are also scheduled to play at home in the opening round, against the Titans at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday.
In Round Two, the Gold Coast Titans will host the Brisbane Broncos in an all-Queensland derby on Friday night. Round 3 will be a headline round with the Grand Final Rematch between Melbourne Storm and Penrith Panthers, as well as the South Sydney Rabbitohs-Sydney Roosters rivalry clash.
NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said the 2021 highlights included:
- Magic Round Brisbane (Round Ten) returning as part of a three-day festival of footy with Queensland teams headlining across each day of the Round.
- The Ampol State of Origin series and Ampol Women’s State of Origin returning to their traditional mid-season timeslot.
- A reduction in the number of five-day turnarounds from 26 (in the last full schedule in 2019) to 25.
- A more even spread of timeslots across the 16 Clubs.
- A focus on Sydney rivalries in crowd-friendly weekend slots, including public holidays.
- ANZAC Weekend Round (Round Seven) including matches in Sydney, Melbourne, Gold Coast, Townsville, and Darwin.
- A national footprint for Indigenous Round (Round 12), featuring matches in Sydney, Townsville, Brisbane, Perth, Newcastle and Coffs Harbour.
Mr Abdo thanked the NRL’s broadcast partners Channel Nine, Fox Sports, Sky Sports New Zealand and Telstra for their ongoing partnership and support in growing the game. He also thanked the Clubs and the RLPA for their involvement and support in the draw process.
Mr Abdo said 2021 would see a return to the structure of a normal season but more unpredictability on the field.
“This schedule is about our fans, our players and our clubs,’’ he said.
“It rewards their discipline, determination and sacrifice last season. More games are in family-friendly slots, there are fewer five-day turnarounds and a more even balance of clubs in television timeslots.
“On the field, it will be anything but normal. Our clubs will have an off-season to consider new innovations from the Commission which will ensure our game is more entertaining and free flowing than ever before.”
Mr Abdo said it was fitting the season would kick off in Melbourne.
“Our Melbourne fans have not seen a game at AAMI Park since 2019. We’ll change that with the opening game of our 2021 season. The Premiers returning home after relocating to Queensland with a blockbuster against South Sydney. It’s by design that both Melbourne and the Warriors, who sacrificed so much, will play at home in Round One.”
Mr Abdo said venues for Ampol State of Origin would be determined later in the year as would details around the NRL Telstra Women’s Premiership.
“March 11 becomes the new May 28,’’ he said.
“We know with a clear vision and a common purpose that we can achieve our goals and this schedule sets March 11 as the date that we deliver on the schedule we have promised. People will question why we have included aspects that still require approvals and we are fine with that. People are welcome to question decisions, like they did in the 2020 season.
“All 25 rounds were announced today to ensure fans and clubs have the opportunity to plan their entire season in advance. The current infection rate is zero and borders are opening, we are optimistic about the 2021 season, but equally we will be ready to adapt and adjust our plans should the need arise. As we demonstrated in 2020, the safety of the community will be a priority for us.”
Mr Abdo said the game would be guided by the relevant advice from Government and from biosecurity experts around health protocols for players and venues.
The NRL Telstra Premiership Finals series will begin on September 10 and culminate with the Grand Final on Sunday, October 3, 2021.
The full NRL Telstra Premiership 2021 schedule can be found at https://www.nrl.com/draw/