The NRL today unveiled a season schedule which includes a new concept in Magic Round as well as matches at 27 different venues across Australia and New Zealand, including the new Western Sydney Stadium at Parramatta.
The 2019 NRL Telstra Premiership will see the introduction of Magic Round Brisbane, which will see all eight matches played at Suncorp Stadium over four days in Round Nine.
It will also feature matches in five regional NSW locations (Bathurst, Tamworth, Mudgee, Wagga Wagga and Gosford), while the Sunshine Coast will host a Premiership match for the first time ever – the Round 5 clash between South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Warriors.
Parramatta Eels will open the new Western Sydney Stadium on Easter Monday in the traditional clash with Wests Tigers in Round Six, while Wests Tigers and the Bulldogs will also play matches at the new venue.
Melbourne Storm will open the season, facing off against Brisbane Broncos on Thursday, March 14 at AAMI Park.
The following night (Friday, March 15), Premiers Sydney Roosters will face traditional rivals South Sydney at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
No club will have more than three five-day turnarounds as part of a drive to protect player welfare, with a more even spread of shorter turnarounds across the 16 Clubs.
The Sunday night standalone State of Origin match will be held at the new Perth Stadium on June 23; the first time Origin has been played in Perth.
State of Origin I will be played at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday, June 5, while the third match of the series will be played at Sydney's ANZ Stadium on Wednesday, July 10. Only two rounds will be directly impacted by State of Origin.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said some of the other highlights of the 2019 schedule included:
- Sunday Sydney derbies – 17 matches between Sydney Clubs have been scheduled on Sundays throughout the season.
- The traditional all Queensland derby between Brisbane Broncos and North Queensland Cowboys in Round Two (Friday, March 22) at Suncorp Stadium, as well as the return match-up at 1300Smiles Stadium in Round 21;
- The Grand Final rematch – between Melbourne Storm and Sydney Roosters – featuring on Good Friday on the Easter Weekend (Round Six), following the traditional match between the Bulldogs and South Sydney Rabbitohs. Matches will be played from Thursday to Monday over Easter;
- ANZAC Round punctuated by the traditional Roosters-Dragons clash being played at the Sydney Cricket Ground;
- Traditional rivals facing off twice during the season (Broncos-Cowboys, Broncos-Titans, Bulldogs-Souths, Bulldogs-Eels, Sharks-Dragons, Sea Eagles-Eels, Eels-Panthers, Roosters-Souths, Dragons-Souths).
"We have some blockbuster matches in the early rounds of the Premiership as well as the final rounds," Mr Greenberg said.
"Sundays in Sydney have been another focus for us. We'll see 17 traditional derbies between Sydney clubs in family-friendly timeslots throughout the season.
"The new Western Sydney Stadium is a game changer and the opening match between the Eels and Wests Tigers should be a wonderful occasion.
"Magic Round will be something unique to sport in this country.
"It will be fantastic to see all 16 Clubs in Brisbane over one weekend in what will be a real celebration of Rugby League.
"I'd like to thank our broadcasters Nine, Fox Sports and Sky NZ as well as the Clubs for ensuring the process has resulted in a great draw."
Mr Greenberg said while five-day turnarounds are up marginally on 2018, there is more parity across the 16 Clubs.
"The number of Clubs with three five-day turnarounds has been brought down," Mr Greenberg said.
"We have also attempted to extend the time between five-day turnarounds for Clubs – in circumstances where they have multiple.
"As always I'd like to thank the RLPA for their involvement in the process.
"The RLPA had key priorities which formed part of the guiding principles for the schedule and we have worked hard to implement them."
All 25 rounds were announced today in Sydney, allowing supporters the chance to plan the entire season in advance.
The NRL Telstra Premiership Finals Series will begin on September 13 and culminate in the Grand Final on October 6.
The full NRL Telstra Premiership 2019 schedule can be found at https://www.nrl.com/draw/