Blockbuster NRL round one fixtures revealed
The NRL will host four potential sellouts in a spectacular opening to the 2020 season.
A copy of the first round draw, leaked to The Sunday Telegraph, features huge afternoon games over the weekend in Sydney rather than the unpopular Thursday and Friday night timeslots.
The full house signs could go up at four venues:
# The Parramatta Eels hosting the Canterbury Bulldogs at Bankwest Stadium.
# The Cowboys playing the Broncos at the magnificent new stadium in Townsville.
# Brookvale Oval to host the Manly Sea Eagles against their arch-rivals Melbourne Storm on a Sunday afternoon.
# And the Penrith Panthers at home to premiers the Sydney Roosters on a Saturday night.
It is a huge match against the best team in the competition for Ivan Cleary and his Panthers who desperately need a strong start to the season to build confidence in the playing group.
The full draw will be released on Tuesday with the first round of the competition kicking off on Thursday night, March 12.
The timeslot no one wants - 6pm on a Friday evening - has gone to grand finalists the Canberra Raiders in what will be a tough sell against wooden spooners the Gold Coast Titans and their new coach Justin Holbrook.
Still, the excitement the green machine generated throughout the finals series will ensure a solid turn out in the national capital.
Manly's home game against Storm on a Sunday afternoon at a suburban ground will be as good as it gets. Only the Roosters, Rabbitohs rivalry is more bitter than the Sea Eagles and Melbourne.
After a disastrous 2019 campaign, St George-Illawarra and embattled coach Paul McGregor launch their recovery season in Wollongong against the Wests Tigers on Sunday evening.
Like the Panthers, they are absolutely desperate for early success.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs are at home at ANZ Stadium on the Saturday evening against the Cronulla Sharks in what should be one of the closest games.
The NRL crowds were down this year about two per cent on 2018.
More strategies have been put in place in this year's schedule for big games to be played in family friendly timeslots rather than on school nights.
ROUND ONE 2020
Thursday, March 12
Eels v Bulldogs, Bankwest Stadium (Nine/Fox League), 8.05pm (all Sydney times)
Friday, March 13
Raiders v Titans, GIO Stadium (Fox League), 6.00pm
Cowboys v Broncos, Townsville Stadium (Nine/Fox League), 8.05pm
Saturday, March 14
Knights v Warriors, McDonald Jones Stadium (Fox League), 3.00pm
Rabbitohs v Sharks, ANZ Stadium (Fox League), 5.30pm
Panthers v Roosters, Panthers Stadium (Fox League), 7.35pm
Sunday, March 15
Sea Eagles v Storm, Lottoland (Nine/Fox League), 4.05pm
Dragons v Tigers, WIN Stadium (Fox League), 6.15pm