Wests Tigers v Sea Eagles preview
3 hours ago | Tim Costello
The NRL this morning released it's full fixture for the 2020 Telstra Premiership season, with a seemingly greater emphasis on attracting fans to the ground rather than throwing everything at maximising TV ratings.
As reported by both major Sydney newspapers, the opening Round kicks off with an Eels-Bulldogs rivalry showdown at Bankwest Stadium. A new stadium opens the following night when the Cowboys welcome Brisbane to their new Townsville venue, while Sunday afternoon the 'Battle of Brookvale' has its latest instalment when the Storm visit Manly at Lottoland.
The matches you might call blockbusters weigh heavily on the front of the fixture - two of three aforementioned Round 1 clashes have their return clashes inside the first six rounds (Broncos v Cowboys Round 5, Bulldogs v Eels Round 6), and the two Grand Final re-matches between the Roosters and Raiders sit just four rounds apart mid-season (Round 11 in Perth, Round 15 in Canberra).
The solemn day we pay our respects to those lost in war falls on a Saturday in 2019, with three matches slated in the draw. The two traditional contests are there - the Dragons & Roosters clash at the SCG at 4pm, with Melbourne hosting the Warriors at 8pm. In between that this season is a Cowboys-Bulldogs clash at the new Townsville Stadium. A huge defence force contigent in the area should ensure the venue is full to capacity for a very special occasion.
The night prior, Darwin will get it's own ANZAC match with the Eels hosting Brisbane at TIO Stadium, while on Sunday April 26, the Raiders will host South Sydney in the nation's capital.
Well - there's a reward this year. No more Thursday night after just 17,000 attended the opening night in its inaugural outing. The spare match will now be tacked on to Sunday night, which works well given the round has shifted one week forward to the weekend of May 1-3. With the Monday in Queensland being a public holiday, there's plenty of reason to head to the sunshine state for a huge weekend of footy.
Despite reports rugby league would bid a temporary goodbye to the Sydney's Olympic Stadium by way of the second Origin match in June, a club match will actually be it's last hurrah before it is reconstructed over the following two-and-a-half years.
A week after the 21 June Blues-Maroons clash, the Bulldogs and Rabbitohs - the venues two long-term tenants - will face off in one last hurrah for the venue that was originally built for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Once complete, the match-day experience stands to improve dramatically for fans with the stands closer to the action and most, if not all, seats covered by an innovative new roof design.
Both Canterbury and South Sydney will join the Wests Tigers and Eels at Bankwest Stadium for the remainder of the season, although both clubs have home games in other cities and towns around the country.
With home venues out of action and some clubs just generous with their home game allocations, there are plenty of opportunities for fans outside the regular locations to see NRL action in 2020.
Gosford's Central Coast Stadium is set to host three matches, the first coming in just Round 2, as the Roosters host Manly on Saturday afternoon (the SCG will still be undergoing conversion from its cricket layout, with an ODI scheduled on the weekend of Round 1). In Round 11, Manly host the Wests Tigers, and the bayside venue will welcome the Rabbitohs and Raiders for what should be a huge clash just three weeks out from the finals.
The Wests Tigers are back in Tamworth, as are the Raiders in Wagga Wagga, and the Panthers in Bathurst. Perth will have two 'home' teams visiting in 2020, with the smaller HBF Park venue to host the Grand Final re-match in Round 11 (Roosters v Raiders), as well as a Round 18 showdown between Canterbury and Melbourne.
The Warriors will also take matches away from their regular venue of Mt Smart Stadium on three occasions - one being Magic Round in Brisbane. The other two will see them shift across their hometown of Auckland to Eden Park, where they're scheduled to host a double-header with rugby union side the Auckland Blues. The logistics alone look intriguing. Their other relocated home game sees them back in Wellington at the renamed Sky Stadium (formerly Wesptac Stadium), where they'll host the Cowboys in Round 15.
NRL returns to the Sunshine Coast not once but twice in 2020, with the Sharks taking a match there in Round 10 (v Cowboys), while the Rabbitohs will host the Warriors at the Kawana Waters venue in Round 22.
Plenty of focus always seems to centre around the opening round ensuring fans roll through the gates, but history shows getting the final round match-ups right is a great way to get the turnstiles clicking over. Of course without knowing the standings that can be difficult, but this year's Round 25 still serves up some mouth-watering contests.
On Friday night of the last weekend of the regular season, Brisbane will host the Roosters at Suncorp Stadium, while Saturday night's feature match has the Raiders hosting the Storm. On Sunday, 'Old Boys Day' sees the Knights welcome the Bulldogs to their Hunter home, while the 192nd and final match of the season brings the Eels to the foot of the mountains for a local derby against Penrith.