NSW have squared the State of Origin series, smashing Queensland 44-12 in a carve up at Optus Stadium in Perth.
Premiers Penrith kick off their NRL title defence against Manly on Thursday March 10, while the State of Origin dates have also been locked down as the NRL released its season draw on Tuesday.
Canterbury get under way with games against North Queensland and Brisbane before the blowtorch increases on Trent Barrett with a run against last season’s top four – Manly, Melbourne, Penrith and South Sydney.
Barrett is just one of several coaches who will start the season under immediate pressure.
St George Illawarra coach Anthony Griffin faces games against Penrith, Parramatta and South Sydney over the opening five weeks. Things are slightly better for Wests Tigers boss Michael Maguire. Thie Togers face a Melbourne side missing Brandon Smith and Cameron Munster through suspension then meet Newcastle, the Warriors, Gold Coast and Cronulla.
Canberra Raiders will play their home games during day time – to beat the cold conditions and CEO Don Furner to the Telegrapgh he expected it to be “really helpful for our crowds.
“The winter months are June, July and August although May is when it starts to get cold. We have one 5.30pm game in winter but the rest are 2pm and 3pm. No 7.30pm or 8pm games. We’re pretty happy.
“July and August can be brutal when you’re trying to get young families to the football.
“The other option is people can sit at home in the warmth and watch matches. Day games are what we asked for. It’s the reverse of the Cowboys who want night games because it’s so hot.”
Canberra has also been given three games in regional towns – Wagga (home), Mudgee (away) and Dubbo (away).
South Sydney won’t have to wait long for a shot at grand final revenge next season after the NRL scheduled their grudge match against Penrith for round four.
The NRL, in a statement, revealed the following draw highlights.
– A potential homecoming match for the Warriors in Auckland against Premiers Penrith Panthers in Round 15 – the first match in New Zealand since 2019.
– The Melbourne Storm’s return to AAMI Park for the first time in 9 months for a Round 2 Blockbuster against the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
– The third Magic Round in Brisbane, featuring all matches at Suncorp Stadium, and with a Queensland-based team featured on each of the three days in Round 10.
– Back-to-back marquee rounds in Easter (Round 6) followed by ANZAC Round (Round 7), the latter featuring matches in Sydney, Brisbane, Townsville, Newcastle and Melbourne.
– An equal record number of regional fixtures, with matches to be played in Darwin, Dubbo, Wagga Wagga, Coffs Harbour, Bathurst, Mudgee, Tamworth, Sunshine Coast, Bundaberg and Mackay.
– The Craig Fitzgibbon-led Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks returning to PointsBet Stadium in Round Two against Parramatta Eels
– The all Queensland-derby, Brisbane Broncos against North Queensland Cowboys, shifting to daytime for the first time in 16 years, in Round Three.
– The return of Indigenous Round, Harvey Norman Women In League Round, Beanies For Brain Cancer and the creation of a new Multicultural Round
– The season launched with All Stars fixtures on Saturday, February 12.
NRL Chief Executive Andrew Abdo said the schedule celebrated the return of clubs to their heartlands.
“The 2022 schedule celebrates the tribalism of our biggest rivalries back in their home towns,” Abdo said.
“It is wonderful to be scheduling matches in NSW, ACT and Victoria again after the relocation in 2021 and we’re confident we will see the homecoming of the Warriors to New Zealand.
“Fans will be back at games right across the country and this schedule takes the Telstra Premiership to 20 cities and towns to maximise the opportunity for rugby league fans to watch their heroes live in person.”
Panthers v Sea Eagles
Warriors v Dragons
Broncos v Rabbitohs
Roosters v Knights
Sharks v Raiders
Wests Tigers v Storm
Eels v Titans
Cowboys v Bulldogs
2022 Origin series
Origin I: Wed, June 8 – Sydney
Origin II: Sun, June 26 – Perth
Origin II: Wed, July 13 – Brisbane