The rugby league season may be some months away but Raiders fans already have something to smile about with seven free-to-air games scheduled for the 2021 NRL Premiership season – up from three in 2020.
The Raiders kick off their season against the Wests Tigers at GIO Stadium on 14 March, the first of 11 home games at Bruce, as well as a game at McDonalds Park in Wagga Wagga against the Knights.
The jump in games from three to seven on free-to-air TV can be attributed to yet another strong season from the Raiders, as well as persistent lobbying from fans and the club. It not only gives fans more opportunities to watch their club but also provides extra incentive to sponsors.
The 2021 season will feature five Thursday night games, one Friday night and one Sunday afternoon game.
The competition returns to a 25-round format this year after being shortened to just 20 rounds last season due to COVID-19.
Rivalries are a prominent feature of the 2021 draw. The Raiders will play the Melbourne Storm and Sydney Roosters twice each, teams they fell to in the finals in the previous two years.
“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.”
Deputy Premier and Member for Monaro John Barilaro welcomed the return to country fixtures after the truncated 2020 season.
“There’s nothing quite like a game of footy to boost morale and nobody deserves it more than our resilient communities in the regions,” Mr Barilaro said.
“Many professional NRL players come from regional towns and I’m sure they, and the entire state of NSW, thank the NRL for making this a reality.
“Sydney might be the home of NRL, but the regions are where it was born.”
The 2021 NRL Telstra Premiership season kicks off on 11 March with the reigning premiers, the Melbourne Storm, taking on the South Sydney Rabbitohs.