The Australian Rugby League has unveiled a 12 match representative programme which will include matches in five countries over a six month schedule.
As tickets went on sale to the only Sydney match of the 2003 Harvey Norman State of Origin series today, coaches joined past and present players at Telstra Stadium for the official launch of the representative season.
2003 is the 95th year of international Rugby League and the 75th anniversary of Australia wearing green and gold.
As a mark of the green and gold anniversary, the Kangaroos will play New Zealand at Aussie Stadium on July 25 in a replica of the green jumper with gold hoops that replaced maroon and blue of the earlier national teams.
"It's a reminder of the tremendous history that surrounds representative Rugby League," ARL Chairman, Mr Colin Love, said today.
Andrew Johns who led Australia against England last year said all players were desperate to be a part of the representative calendar:
"You dream of being there when you watch it on TV as a kid and you want to live that dream as often as you can.
"State of Origin is just incredible to be a part of and there's nothing else like it. You play with and against the best players in the game and it makes you lift a gear every time."
"Not only do you want to win the series but you want to be chosen to play for Australia and you can't describe how much that means to a player in a Kangaroo year."
Mr Love said the ARL's representative calendar for 2003 is one of the most encouraging the game has produced for some years:
"Particularly when you consider that it follows on the success of the World Sevens, which again showed the tremendous appetite that exists both here and overseas for representative matches.
"The return of a full scale City versus Country match at Express Advocate Stadium on May 16 signals the start of a representative campaign that will finish with the Third Test against Great Britain at Huddersfield on November 22.
"State of Origin continues to gather strength as the most dominant sporting series on the Australian winter calendar and the excitement generated around the Maroons return to Lang Park is making 2003 all the more special.
"The New Zealand series in 2003 is not only an historic one, given that the second game will be the 100th international between the two countries, but it also promises to be incredibly close given the performance of the New Zealand Warriors of late.
"On the way to the three test tour against Great Britain this year, we will see the Kangaroos against Wales and England A.
"Another international will also be scheduled as part of the team's trip to the UK with discussions underway with France, Russia and the USA.
"The Kangaroos are the most successful sporting team Australia has produced and we are keen to showcase the talents of the World Champions as widely as possible.
"The growing strength of the representative calendar is an important part of the game's future and I know there is tremendous confidence building within the Rugby League International Federation."
The 2003 itinerary is:
May 16 Harvey Norman City Origin v Country Origin at Express Advocate Stadium June 11 Game 1, Harvey Norman State of Origin Series at Suncorp Stadium June 25 Game 2, Harvey Norman State of Origin Series at Telstra Stadium July 16 Game 3, Harvey Norman State of Origin Series at Suncorp Stadium July 25 1st Test Australia v New Zealand at Aussie Stadium October 18 2nd Test Australia v New Zealand (100th Aus v NZ international) October TBA International between Kangaroos and either France, USA or Russia October 28 Australia v England A Brentford (West London) November 2 Australia v Wales Welsh venue TBA November 8 1st Test Australia v Great Britain, Wigan November 15 2nd Test Australia v Great Britain, Hull November 22 3rd Test Australia v Great Britain, HuddersfieldLike