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2017 NRL DRAW: out TODAY
The NRL is set to launch the 2017 NRL draw at 11:15am AEDT this Thursday 24 November at Rugby League Central, Moore Park in Sydney. Here's what we know so far.
SHARKS TO OPEN SEASON
Premiers Cronulla-Sutherland will open the season with a big clash against 2015's runner-up in Brisbane on Thursday 2 March. The Bulldogs are set to debut the 6pm Friday timeslot when they host Melbourne at Belmore the following evening.
News Limited has also reported the other two Queensland clubs (Titans and Cowboys) will each host games on Saturday night, against the Roosters and Raiders respectively, while South Sydney will host the Wests Tigers on Friday night at ANZ Stadium in a game that will likely pit former Tigers' hooker Robbie Farah against his old club. Manly get the first Sunday afternoon free-to-air game of the season when they host Parramatta at Brookvale.
LeagueUnlimited.com understands the remaining matches will see the Warriors host Newcastle at Mt Smart Stadium, and the Dragons are expected open their 2017 campaign at home to Penrith, with that match tentatively scheduled for Kogarah's UOW Jubilee Oval. Those matches will fill the remaining slots - one on Saturday, the other Sunday. Here's how we see Round 1 shaping up - with details subject to change:
GRAND FINAL RE-MATCH
October's epic Grand Final between Melbourne and Cronulla will be replicated in the southern capital in Round 6.
The clubs played out three huge games in 2016, with the premiers Cronulla winning the first game at Southern Cross Group Stadium, before the Storm claimed the minor premiership in the final round at home in Melbourne. The Sharks took the ultimate prize with a 14-12 win just four weeks later at ANZ Stadium.
Melbourne's AAMI Park is likely to be near-full as the runners-up host the premiers in a bumper clash on Sunday 9 April.
BLAME IT ON BIEBER, OFF TO DUNEDIN FOR THE 'DOGS
News Limited's David Riccio reports that the availability of ANZ Stadium poses significant problems in the early part of the 2017 season, with the venue booked out for back-to-back concerts in mid-March. Singers Adele and Justin Bieber will utilise the Olympic venue across the second and third rounds of the Telstra Premiership, which means all five tenant clubs (Canterbury, Parramatta, St George Illawarra, South Sydney & Wests Tigers) will have to give the venue a wide berth.
South Sydney have reportedly been given clashes against Manly and Newcastle away from home, while Canterbury are away to the Roosters at the SFS before taking a home game against the Warriors to Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium in Round 3.
Expect to see all the regular "event" matches in the 2017 schedule. The Bulldogs v Rabbitohs Good Friday clash (Round 7) is always well attended, as is the Easter Monday showdown between the Eels and Wests Tigers, both at ANZ Stadium. The M1 Derby between the Broncos and Titans will also take place on Good Friday night.
The Roosters take their turn to host ANZAC Day against the Dragons while we also expect to see the Storm and Warriors clash at AAMI Park the same Tuesday evening at the end of Round 8. The Bulldogs will host the Queen's Birthday clash at ANZ Stadium on the Monday of Round 14. The Dragons will also host the Rabbitohs at the SCG in their annual heritage clash at some point in the season.
BUMPER REP ROUND, MUDGEE GETS COUNTRY-CITY NOD
The first weekend of May will feature an even bigger representative round - kicking off with a test match double header (venue to be confirmed) between Australia and New Zealand - first the Jillaroos & Kiwi Ferns before the Kangaroos host the Kiwis on Friday 5 May.
Sunday 7 May sees attention turn to Mudgee in NSW's Central West with what is the last Country v City clash, as a new representative structure is on the way for 2018. The NRL has planned a range of celebrations to mark the final match.
ACROSS THE NATION
First grade rugby league will be played in every mainland capital for the first time since 1995, with the Roosters confirming their 12th home game will be going to Adelaide - their opponent the Melbourne Storm and the match likely to be played in June. In addition to this, the Rabbitohs (Perth) and Eels (Darwin) continue their partnerships across the country.
The Roosters will also play a premiership match in Gosford, and it appears likely the success of last season's Suncorp Stadium double header hosted by Manly and Melbourne will continue in 2017.
Across the Tasman, the Warriors have confirmed they are off to Hamilton for their 12th home game, to be played at FMG Stadium Waikato.
OTHER BITS & PIECES
With the release approaching, various clubs are putting forward details of various matches. So far confirmed are:
Round 2: Roosters v Bulldogs @ Allianz Stadium, Thu 9 Mar, 8:05pm (Ch 9)
Round 2: Broncos v Cowboys @Suncorp Stadium, Fri 10 Mar, 8:05pm (Ch 9)
Round 2: Knights v Titans @ McDonald Jones Stadium, Sat 11 Mar, 3:00pm (FOX)
Round 2: Raiders v Sharks @ GIO Stadium, Sat 11 Mar, 7:30pm (FOX)
Round 2: Wests Tigers v Panthers @ Campbelltown, Sun 12 Mar, 4:00pm (Ch 9)
Round 3: Storm v Broncos @ AAMI Park, Thu 16 Mar, 8:05pm (Ch 9)
Round 3: Panthers v Roosters @ Pepper Stadium, Sat 16 Mar, 7:00pm (FOX)
Round 4: Eels v Sharks @ ANZ Stadium, Sat 25 Mar, 7:00pm (FOX)
The 2017 NRL season kicks off on Thursday 2 March.
Easter weekend will be from Thursday 13 to Monday 17 March
ANZAC Round is the following weekend from Friday 21 March to Tuesday 25 April.
The Representative round takes place Friday 5 to Sunday 7 May.
State of Origin will be played twice in Brisbane (May 31 & July 12) and once in Sydney (June 21)
The final NRL round will be played from August 31 to September 3, with the Grand Final scheduled for Sunday 1 October at ANZ Stadium.
This article updates - all information subject to change or correction.