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For all the talk of blockbuster clashes, more games in the bush and Origin returning to mid-season, arguably the most significant take-out for fans and players from the 2021 Telstra Premiership schedule is a return to normality after the COVID-induced chaos of 2020.

Announcing the draw at Rugby League Central on Thursday morning, NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said it was a case of hoping for the best yet still planning for the worst, with plenty of contingency planning already done in case there are further coronavirus outbreaks to throw a spanner in the works.

But as things stand, the Storm and Warriors will host home games at AAMI Park and Mt Smart Stadium respectively in round one, the always popular Easter and Anzac fixtures are back, along with Magic Round, and players won't have to recommit to a biosecurity bubble like they did in 2020.

"We'll be back to the traditional of 192 regular season games with 25 rounds home and away fixtures," Abdo said.

2021 NRL Telstra Premiership draw

"We'll be back to our traditional rivalries and events that the fans love, whether it's the Easter weekend, Anzac Round, Magic Round or Origin right in the middle of winter."

Abdo praised a reduction in triple away stretches and five-day turnarounds along with a focus on ensuring local derbies and major rivalries landed on fan-friendly weekend and public holiday slots.

Analysing the Warriors' 2021 draw

"The most important thing for us was to provide certainty to our players and clubs and most importantly to our fans so they can navigate what the season looks like next year," he said.

"People want to know what's in store for them.

"The opportunity for us to announce the fact we're playing 25 rounds and have a fixture list that balances all that complexity and the fact we're able to announce it now is a great thing for stakeholders, particularly our fans."

While the season would ideally progress as it was announced on Thursday, Abdo said that would still be subject to COVID-19 infection rates remaining low and borders that are currently closed re-opening in the near future.

"We've proven in 2020 we can adapt to change," he added.

"If things change, if the environment changes we'll put the safety of the players, the safety of the community at the forefront of those decisions and we'll be ready to adapt to that change. Where we can control the variables we have."

A decision on where the Warriors will start the season will likely have to be made before Christmas for planning reasons with the club ready to return to Australia, probably doing pre-season training in Tamworth before playing out of the Central Coast in blocks, if need be.

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"At the moment the borders are closed but we're optimistic," he said.

"The infection rates are low. Most importantly the opportunity for us to think about borders opening and the Warriors being able to play at home, that's what we're planning for.

"If we don't get there, and we've got internal deadlines and we've prepared for the permutations of that not occurring, we can work with the Warriors on relocating them to Australia as we've done in 2020 and for them to play in blocks in Australia.

Analysing the Storm's 2021 draw

"At this stage, based on infection rates and the information available to us, we're confident the borders will be open. If they're not we'll be ready for it and the Warriors will be ready for it.

"We've been on constant dialogue with the CEO and chairman of the Warriors around planning for the pre-season. It's not just about the first round, it's actually about pre-season.

"There are quite advanced discussions around at some point in December making a call as to whether the Warriors relocate to do the pre-season in Australia."

NRL's strong return to regional NSW in 2021

Abdo said the thought of the Warriors again playing in front of their home fans after all the sacrifices the club made in 2020 gave him goosebumps.

"The way they played and the way they came together, I'm incredibly excited. If it's not round one [that they play at home] it will be some point in the season the Warriors play at home in New Zealand."

As it stands, no player will be back confined to the highly restrictive bubble protocols of 2020.

"At the moment ... the protocols will be in adherence with what the public protocols are," Abdo said.

"Clearly we want to make sure we protect the community and the players are training in as safe and low risk as possible type of environment. What we're planning for at the moment is borders to be open, infection rates remaining as they are at the moment which allows players to just adhere to public protocols.

"If that situation changes then we will put together a set of protocols that is relevant to the risk level at the time."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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