It was a long time coming, but fans no longer have to ponder and speculate as to when it will come out – with the 2013 NRL season draw released (that is, the first 20 rounds of the year).
With the Roosters and Rabbitohs to kick things off on Thursday March 7, Round 1 promises to set up some block-buster clashes, as teams look to set the tone for the season early.
As the kick-off to the 2013 season gets closer and closer, and just 104 days remaining until Thursday March 7, any plans that fans had in mind to attend interstate games, can now be made.
With Thursday night fixtures and Sunday night games becoming regular occurrences in the first 20 rounds, for the NRL, it was all about trying new things and testing out methods that work.
â€œThis has been the most extensive draw process we have ever undertaken and the result is a great outcome for the game,” said Interim CEO Shane Mattiske.
â€œNot only do fans now have certainty around when their team is playing but we have also managed to deliver a schedule of week in week out blockbuster games and new trial timeslots.â€
The draw will not be limited solely to games in capital cities, however, with Cairns, Darwin, Mackay, Perth and Mudgee, all set to host games at some stage during the season.
With the draw now finished, the NRL's General Manager of Football Operations is excited for the new season coming up, particularly the games to be held in regional rugby league areas.
â€œWe are all very excited about this draw which better assists fans to make plans for much of the season for the first time,” said McGuirk.
â€œOur Club Season Structure Committee (which includes representatives from the Dragons, Bulldogs, Wests Tigers and Broncos), broadcasters and NRL Marketing and Football Operations departments have agreed upon a thrilling spread of matches that enables clubs to maximise crowds and promotional opportunities.
â€œThe opening game between traditional rivals, Rabbitohs and Roosters, on a Thursday night is a great way to start the season, which will also feature four other key matches in this timeslot as well as 13 twilight Sunday night matches.
â€œIn addition we have some of the seasonâ€™s key clashes in regional centres, as well as the inclusion of the NRL-free Representative Weekend and Good Friday afternoon match following their successful introduction this year.
â€œSpecial mention must go to the NRLâ€™s Shaun Wendt and Rick Stone from the Canadian company, Optical Planning Solutions, who worked tirelessly through what was an enormous logistical exercise involving a wide range of variables to produce such an exciting draw.â€
Some features to the 2013 NRL draw include:
â€¢13 twilight Sunday night matches and four Thursday night games
â€¢Matches scheduled for Perth (Rabbitohs v Warriors), Darwin (Titans v Panthers) and Mackay (Bulldogs v Knights) â€“ all in Round 17 (July 5-8) – as well as a game in Mudgee (Eels v Titans, Round 11)
â€¢The season-opening round on March 7 also featuring a Broncos v Sea Eagles clash which marks the 25th anniversary of their first premiership match
â€¢A Good Friday afternoon game (March 29) between the Bulldogs and Rabbitohs as well as the Good Friday night game between the Broncos and Storm.
â€¢Men of League Heritage Round (Round 6, April 12-14) featuring the Wests Tigers v Dragons match which marks the 50th anniversary of the trophy photo (Norm Provan and Arthur Summons); and the Manly v Sharks clash which is the 40th anniversary of the 1973 Grand Final and 30th anniversary of the 1983 KB Cup Final
â€¢An NRL-free Representative Weekend (April 19-21) featuring the Australia v NZ Test in Canberra and Country v City Origin in Coffs Harbour
â€¢An Anzac Day double (Thursday, April 25) featuring the Roosters and the Dragons in Sydney and the Storm against the Warriors in Melbourne
â€¢The â€˜Pink Vâ€™ Dragons hosting the Eels during the Harvey Norman Women In League Round which will be played earlier in Round 10 (May 17-20)
â€¢Origin matches in Sydney (June 5 and July 17) and Brisbane (June 26)
â€¢Rivalry Round (Round 20, July 26-29) kicking off with the Cowboys v Broncos in Townsville and Bulldogs v Eels at ANZ Stadium.
The full NRL draw is available here: http://www.nrl.com/2013-telstra-premiership-draw/tabid/10874/newsid/70429/default.aspx
Fans got what they were after, with the first 20 rounds of the season released in order to make future plans to attend games easier.
â€œIt is very exciting to be able to give Rugby League fans certainty around almost the entire season for the first time,” Mattiske said.
â€œKnowing exactly who is playing, when and where for the first 20 of the 26 regular rounds of competition is a major coup for our fans.
â€œNo doubt games such as the Round 3 Grand Final replay between the Storm and Bulldogs; the Wests Tigers v Sharks clash in Round 9; and the many traditional rivalries and local derbies will provide thrilling contests full of surprise and drama.
â€œWith only 104 days until the season starts and, with so much to look forward to as revealed in the draw today, the countdown to kick-off truly starts now.
â€œOur Football Operations and Marketing teams have worked closely with clubs and the gameâ€™s scheduling committee to construct a draw that will enable clubs to continue to build on their strong crowds and record membership figures of 2012.
â€œThe message to fans is simple. This is what you have been asking for and we strongly encourage you to act now â€¦ secure your club membership and your seat at home games, circle the big matches on your calendars, make the most of flight specials and get behind your team wherever and whenever they play.â€