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117 mins ago
The NRL has today revealed the 2017 season draw, with premiers Cronulla to kick off the new season against perennial contenders Brisbane at home on Thursday March 2.
An intriguing opening round of match-up sees grudge matches galore - aside from the Sharks' opener, the Bulldogs debut the 6pm Friday timeslot against the Storm - who haven't beaten the blue-and-whites for nearly four years - at Belmore. Later the same night the Rabbitohs host the Wests Tigers at ANZ Stadium, in a clash likely to feature Robbie Farah against his former club.
The Saturday sees the Dragons open their campaign at Kogarah, while both the Cowboys and Titans are at home that evening. With Monday night football scrapped, the weekend wraps on Sunday with the Warriors hosting Newcastle in Auckland before Manly and the Eels close out proceedings.
2016's champions feature heavily in key fixtures early in the season - the Sharks are off to Canberra in Round 2 to face their qualifying final opponents, before returning home to take on local rivals St George Illawarra. Round 4 sees them away to the Eels before they play an anniversary match in Round 5, albeit against Newcastle. The long-awaited grand final re-match is set down for Sunday 9 April at AAMI Park in Round 6 when the Sharks will look to redouble their October efforts over the Storm. The return clash happens on the Thursday night of the Queen's Birthday weekend at Southern Cross Group Stadium in Round 14.
Newcastle (6) and the Warriors (5) get the lions share of the new Friday 6pm timeslot with the Bulldogs and Sea Eagles also featuring frequently. Wests Tigers are the darlings of Sunday afternoon football on Channel 9 with seven appearances, while the Rabbitohs (10) and Broncos (7) are most favoured on Friday nights. Brisbane (6) and Canterbury (5) feature most in the Thursday night timeslot.