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NRL 2021 draw: Magic Round, Easter and Anzac blockbusters return

The 2021 Telstra Premiership draw features something for everyone with blockbusters throughout, the return of much-loved traditional Easter and Anzac fixtures, Magic Round, stacks of regional games and Origin back in the middle of the year.

After the chaos of a restructured 2020 and the loss of those marquee events due to COVID, each is back in the schedule for next year.

The traditional Easter clashes are back with the Bulldogs and Bunnies going at it on Good Friday in round four and the Wests Tigers hosting Parramatta on Easter Monday.

Anzac Round falls in round seven, with Anzac Day on the Sunday to feature a triple-header of NRL games starting with the Wests Tigers v Manly at Bankwest Stadium at 1.45pm.

The Roosters and the Dragons will face off at the SCG at 4.05pm with the Storm and Warriors from AAMI Park at 6.15pm.

After missing out last season on hosting an Anzac Round match due to the two-month shutdown, Townsville gets to host an Anzac fixture with the Raiders to visit Queensland Country Bank Stadium on Saturday, April 24.

Magic Round falls in round 10 with eight games over three days and one Queensland team to headline each day's action with Manly v Brisbane on Friday night, Roosters v Cowboys on Saturday night and Titans v Panthers to cap off the round on Sunday evening.

“This schedule is about our fans, our players and our clubs,’’ said NRL CEO Andrew Abdo.

“It rewards their discipline, determination and sacrifice last season. More games are in family-friendly slots, there are fewer five-day turnarounds and a more even balance of clubs in television timeslots.

“On the field, it will be anything but normal. Our clubs will have an off-season to consider new innovations from the Commission which will ensure our game is more entertaining and free flowing than ever before.”

Indigenous Round will be held in round 12 featuring matches in Sydney, Townsville, Brisbane, Perth, Newcastle and Coffs Harbour.

The Telstra Premiership kicks off on March 11 with a Thursday night blockbuster between premiers Melbourne and last season's fast-finishing preliminary finalists South Sydney, pitting master coaches Craig Bellamy and Wayne Bennett against each other.

Wooden spooners Brisbane start their season at home against recent tormentors Parramatta on the Friday night while the round concludes with a local derby between the Dragons and Sharks on Sunday evening.

The other round one fixtures feature Newcastle v Canterbury in the earlier Friday game, Warriors v Titans, Roosters v Sea Eagles and Panthers v Cowboys on Saturday and Raiders v Wests Tigers on Sunday afternoon.

Round two features the Eels looking for revenge against Melbourne for their qualifying final loss at Bankwest Stadium on Thursday night, the Titans v Broncos local derby with David Fifita up against his former teammates at Cbus Super Stadium on Friday night and Trent Barrett coaching against his old club when the Bulldogs host the Panthers on Saturday afternoon at Bankwest Stadium.

The blockbusters ramp up in round three with a grand final rematch between the Storm and Panthers on Thursday night and Souths taking on arch-rivals the Roosters on Friday night.

Better. Faster. Stronger.

In the 2021 draw, teams play three straight away games only four times compared to eight last season and total five-day turnarounds have dropped again from 26 to 25.

There is once again a mid-season representative round between rounds 15 and 16 which will feature State of Origin II on the Sunday; the pre-Origin split rounds land in round 13 and 17.

There will also be a record number of matches played in regional areas with 14 games played at 10 non-traditional grounds next season.