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Fixture This: who's got it bad in 2018?
LeagueUnlimited.com looks at the 2018 NRL Draw - who wins, who loses and how the timeslots are distributed.
Invariably when the NRL draw is released ahead of each new season, the usual suspects come out of the woodwork to complain that their team got the rough end of the stick, or worse still, that the entire draw is lopsided or unfair.
Looking purely at allocations of timeslots and opponents, we've decided to separate myth from fact. Let's shake.
Roosters 'kissed on the backside'
The most prevalent discussion point upon the draw release last Thursday was that the Roosters had been given a dream run when it came to the calibre of their opponents in 2018.
On face value, the pundits are right. The Tricolours play the least number of games against top eight opposition from 2017, having just nine of their 24 matches against sides that featured in the finals last season. By comparison, premiers Melbourne play eleven of 24 against top eight sides.
Additionally, the Roosters seem to have one of the most evenly-spread fixture lists when it comes to timeslots, having at least one or two games in each slot apart from the 2pm Sunday fixture.
Newcastle, you got it bad
But, before you start clicking those wooden spoons together in protest, you aren't the only ones. Both the Knights and the Gold Coast Titans (who finished last and second last respectively) will face 14 top eight opponents each in 2018.
The Titans have been saddled with Saturday-itis in terms of timeslots with 12 of their 24 matches to be played at either 3pm or 5:30pm on Saturday afternoon; while Newcastle have a massive eight matches in the much maligned Friday 6pm slot. A further seven of their matches are spread across those early Saturday allocations, meaning fans of both clubs will need to look to Foxtel to ensure they can watch their teams' season unfold.
Between the two sides there are just five Free-To-Air TV appearances... two for Newcastle and three for the Titans.
Load me up
It's worth mentioning that despite the unfavourable share the Titans and Knights get in the FTA stakes, the number of teams sharing greater numbers of exposure on Channel 9 this season has increased greatly.
However, that hasn't stopped certain teams obtaining the lions share of certain timeslots.
Thursday night: Broncos 8, Bulldogs 5, Cowboys 5, Rabbitohs 5
These four teams account for half of the timeslot's allocation, with 23 appearances from a possible 46.
Friday 6pm: Knights 8, Warriors 7, Panthers 5
As previously suggested the Knights are likely assigned the graveyard-shift slot but ultimately that makes no sense when 2017 high-flyers Penrith still get a glut of the fixture as well.
Friday night: Storm 7, Panthers 6, Broncos 5, Cowboys 5, Rabbitohs 5
For the first time in a long, long time - Brisbane don't lead this timeslot. Granted it's largely due to the Thursday allocations, but in the end it's the premiers who will see more prime-time Friday night footy.
Super Saturday: Titans 13, Raiders 11, Cowboys 11, Warriors 11, Sea Eagles 10, Rabbitohs 10
With the Titans dominating the Saturday landscape, interestingly despite complaints, the Cowboys still enjoy a glut of Saturday fixtures, along with the Raiders and Warriors. Manly and Souths have an increased presence on Saturdays as well in 2018.
Sunday on Fox: Titans 7, Knights 5, Sharks 5, Warriors 4, Raiders 4,
Shared between the 6:30pm (early season) and 2pm (most of the season) slots, it's again the lower ranked teams that seem to dominate this space.
Sunday on Nine: Wests Tigers 6, Sea Eagles 5, Roosters 5
Fulfilling a promise to play more Sydney blockbusters on Sunday afternoon, the NRL seem to have delivered on this promise with Sydney teams taking up the bulk of this premium timeslot.
Another interesting feature of the draw this season is how often return clashes between two sides are played in the opening half of the season. The following sides will have played each other twice before we hit Round 12:
- Panthers & Eels
- Sharks & Dragons
- Bulldogs & Roosters
- Bulldogs & Panthers
- Storm & Wests Tigers
- Cowboys & Storm
Bizarrely, the Panthers-Eels and Tigers-Storm clashes will both be rounded out by Round 5. We understand venue availability and club requests can make scheduling difficult... but this is a little bit silly.
Home away from home
An increased number of teams will take home games to non-traditional venues in 2018, with the Dragons, Tigers and Titans all adding their names to a growing list of clubs keen to expand their supporter bases.
Importantly, some clubs have made conscious decisions to relocate these matches, while others have had their hand forced - most notably the Gold Coast being unable to use Cbus Super Stadium for large parts of March & April with the 2018 Commonwealth Games taking place.
Below is a break-down of where each side's home games will be distributed in 2018:
- Broncos: 12 x Suncorp Stadium
- Raiders: 12 x GIO Stadium
- Bulldogs: 9 x ANZ Stadium, 1 x Perth Stadium, 2 x Belmore S.G.
- Sharks: 12 x Southern Cross Group Stadium
- Titans: 10 x Cbus Super Stadium, 1 x Toowoomba, 1 x Gladstone
- Sea Eagles: 10 x Lottoland, 1 x Christchurch, 1 x Suncorp Stadium
- Storm: 11 x AAMI Park, 1 x Suncorp Stadium
- Knights: 12 x McDonald Jones Stadium
- Cowboys: 12 x 1300SMILES Stadium
- Eels: 11 x ANZ Stadium, 1 x Darwin
- Panthers: 11 x Panthers Stadium, 1 x Bathurst
- Dragons: 5 x Jubilee Oval, 5 x WIN Stadium, 1 x Allianz Stadium, 1 x Mudgee
- Rabbitohs: 9 x ANZ Stadium, 1 x Perth, 1 x Cairns, 1 x Gosford
- Roosters: 10 x Allianz Stadium, 1 x Gosford, 1 x Adelaide
- Warriors: 12 x Mt Smart Stadium
- Wests Tigers: 4 x ANZ Stadium, 3 x Campbelltown, 3 x Leichhardt, 1 x Mt Smart Stadium, 1 x Tamworth
Spotted any other fixture quirks? Let us know in the comments below!