The 2019 Telstra Premiership draw features several innovations. Here’s all you need to know for each of the 16 teams that will be striving to lift the NRL trophy next October.
Will the Roosters be able to defend their title? Who will drop out of the top eight? Which team will rise from the ranks of the also-rans in 2018 to become premiership contenders?
There are so many questions leading into the start of next season. Now the teams, and the fans, can plan their 2019 around who’s playing and when for all 25 rounds.
Team by team, here’s all the key points in a snapshot for the 16 sides hoping to be the 2019 NRL premiers.
NRL Telstra premiership draw 2019
Teams they play twice: Storm, Cowboys, Roosters, Sharks, Rabbitohs, Warriors, Titans, Eels, Bulldogs
Teams they play once: Dragons, Wests Tigers, Raiders, Sea Eagles, Knights, Panthers
Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday – seven, Friday – seven, Saturday – seven, Sunday – three.
Sunday derbies, Magic Round headline 2019 draw
Five-day turnarounds: 2 (Rd 8, Rd 18)
Kick-off: The Broncos take on three teams that made the 2018 finals in their opening four matches, including both grand final teams – a tough road trip to Melbourne to kick off the Telstra Premiership and an SCG blockbuster in the fourth round against the premiers, the Sydney Roosters.
The Broncos’ key five games
That’s both of last year’s grand finalists, one fierce rival that always lifts for Brisbane games plus the team that smacked them in round one of 2018 and led the competition for the first 16 weeks.
And another thing: The only club to be at their home ground in round nine’s Magic Round, featuring all eight games at Suncorp Stadium will technically be the away team for a Manly home game. It means the luxury of an additional “home” game but it didn’t exactly pay off last year, with the Sea Eagles upsetting Brisbane in the match they moved to Suncorp in round 10.
Teams they play twice: Storm, Cowboys, Eels, Sea Eagles, Panthers, Roosters, Wests Tigers, Sharks, Warriors.
Teams they play once: Titans, Knights, Broncos, Rabbitohs, Bulldogs, Dragons.
Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday – One, Friday – Four, Saturday – Nine, Sunday – Ten.
Five-day turnarounds: 2 (Rd 2, Rd 20).
The Raiders’ key five games
Kick-off: A slow start to the year, including a couple of last-ditch losses in the first two rounds to the Titans and Knights, proved extremely costly for the Green Machine last season. They kick off 2019 with three games against teams that didn’t make the playoffs – including the Gold Coast and Newcastle – plus a home meeting with Melbourne in round two.
Toughest stretch: Rounds 19-22. Coming out of an Origin period that will likely result in little extra strain placed on the Green Machine, they head straight into a tricky run with trips to two of last year’s finalists, Penrith and the Warriors, with just a five-day turnaround to recover from Penrith and head across the ditch. They return from Auckland straight into a home clash with the premiers, the Roosters, before another tricky road trip to the other grand final team, the Storm, at AAMI Park.
And another thing: In round eight, the Raiders will play Penrith in what will be their first game at McDonald’s Stadium in Wagga Wagga – just their second match in the city and first since 1985. They don’t have a happy record taking on the Panthers in regional venues, with two heart-breaking late losses in Bathurst in 2016 and 2017. It will be a Raiders home game this time so the Green Machine will be hoping for a psychological boost there.
Teams they play twice: Eels, Wests Tigers, Storm, Dragons, Rabbitohs, Cowboys, Knights, Roosters, Broncos.
Teams they play once: Warriors, Sea Eagles, Titans, Raiders, Sharks, Panthers.
Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday – Three, Friday – Three, Saturday – Nine, Sunday – Eight, Monday – One.
Five-day turnarounds: 2 (Rd 6, Rd 23).
The Bulldogs’ key five games
Kick-off: The Dogs face a daunting start to the season with a trip to Auckland to lock horns with the Warriors as well as a round-four meeting with the Storm in Melbourne and they only have one home game in the first month of their campaign.
Toughest stretch: Rounds 12-15. This run starts with an ANZ Stadium match against Canberra who beat them in heart-breaking circumstances in 2018, followed by three matches against likely top-eight sides in the Dragons, premiers Sydney Roosters followed by the Sharks.
And another thing: For the first time since their ‘back to Belmore’ triumph over the Storm in 2015, the Dogs will play just a single game at their spiritual home in 2019. It comes in round 11 against Melbourne and with just one win from seven (and that a last-gasp comeback against that year’s wooden spooners Newcastle in 2017) it will be their only chance to break a developing mini-hoodoo at the venue.
Teams they play twice: Titans, Cowboys, Eels, Panthers, Broncos, Storm, Dragons, Raiders, Warriors.
Teams they play once: Knights, Roosters, Sea Eagles, Bulldogs, Rabbitohs, Wests Tigers.
Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday – Four, Friday – Four, Saturday – Nine, Sunday – Seven.
Five-day turnarounds: 2 (Rd 6, Rd 14).
The Sharks’ key five games
Kick-off: After falling one game short of the grand final in 2018, Cronulla have, on paper, a relatively easy start to the Telstra Premiership with all four matches against teams which missed out on last season’s playoffs. However, they have just one game at home in the first month of the season.
Toughest stretch: Rounds 16-22. After getting their bye out of the way in the first of the bye rounds (in round 12) the Sharks come out of the Origin period with a pretty gruelling seven-week stretch that features six games against teams that finished in the top eight in 2018 (Broncos, Storm, Warriors, Rabbitohs, Panthers, Dragons) plus the Cowboys who should bounce back.
The run also includes back-to-back trips to Melbourne and Wellington inside a stretch of three straight six-day turnarounds.
And another thing: After returning from New Zealand in round 18, the Sharks play five of their final seven games at Shark Park and don’t have to hit the airport again, travelling no further than Penrith (round 21) and Leichhardt (round 25) in what should be a handy pre-finals freshen-up.
Gold Coast Titans
Teams they play twice: Sharks, Warriors, Panthers, Knights, Cowboys, Sea Eagles, Broncos, Storm, Dragons.
Teams they play once: Raiders, Rabbitohs, Tigers, Bulldogs, Roosters, Eels.
Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday – One, Friday – Seven, Saturday – Eight, Sunday – Eight.
Five-day turnarounds: 2 (Rd 4, Rd 14).
The Titans’ key five games
Kick-off: After hosting the Raiders in their season opener, the Titans have a three-game road trip against 2018 finals teams – travelling to Cronulla, ANZ Stadium to face Souths and Auckland for a clash with the Warriors.
Toughest stretch: Rounds 17-21. Coming out of an Origin period that is likely to be taxing on two or three of their key forwards, they face off against the might of Melbourne then Brisbane at home in rounds 18 and 19 off the back of a visit to Penrith in round 17.
They cap all that off with more travel against top-class opposition, heading to Sydney to face premiers Sydney Roosters then the Dragons at Jubilee Oval.
And another thing: The Titans start their 2019 campaign in identical fashion to 2018: hosting Canberra on Sunday evening in the final game of round one. It had a happy ending last time with a memorable comeback win so Garth Brennan’s boys will be hoping for a repeat dose..
Manly Sea Eagles
Teams they play twice: Wests Tigers, Warriors, Rabbitohs, Knights, Dragons, Raiders, Titans, Eels, Storm.
Teams they play once: Roosters, Bulldogs, Broncos, Sharks, Panthers, Cowboys.
Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday – Two, Friday – Four, Saturday – Thirteen, Sunday – Five.
Five-day turnarounds: 1 (Rd 11).
Kick-off: Des Hasler’s second stint in charge of Manly begins with two matches in the opening four rounds at Lottoland plus one ‘home’ game in New Zealand. The new coach has a chance to make an early impression on the club’s disgruntled fan base, although all three of those matches are against 2018 playoff sides.
Toughest stretch: Rounds 2-6. The second Des Hasler era gets underway with a fairly even season draw that features the tougher games and away trips fairly well spread out. It’s arguably trickiest in the early stages: they host premiers the Roosters in round two before travelling to Christchurch to play the Warriors followed by a home game against the Rabbitohs before heading up the M1 to face a Knights side that bested them twice in 2018, then heading in the other direction to meet the Dragons in Wollongong in round six.
The Sea Eagles’ key five games
And another thing: In round three the Sea Eagles take a home game to Christchurch for a second straight year. The move ended well for the Warriors last year as they romped to a big win in the two teams’ only meeting. Manly face the Warriors in New Zealand twice in 2019 with a Warriors home game at Mt Smart Stadium in round 21 but Manly have had a happier time there, winning their past four.
Teams they play twice: Broncos, Raiders, Bulldogs, Cowboys, Roosters, Warriors, Sharks, Titans, Sea Eagles.
Teams they play once: Panthers, Eels, Wests Tigers, Knights, Dragons, Rabbitohs.
Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday – Four, Friday – Seven, Saturday – Eight, Sunday – Five.
Five-day turnarounds: 2 (Rd 5, Rd 10).
Kick-off: After falling one win shy of back-to-back premierships, the Storm open 2019 with a home showdown against Brisbane before trips to Canberra and Bathurst to face Penrith before returning to Victoria in round four where they’ll host Canterbury.
The Storm’s key five games
Toughest stretch: Rounds 13-17. Despite Billy Slater hanging up his boots and the representative retirement of Cameron Smith, the Storm will still be heavily affected during the State of Origin period. They come out of their round 12 bye with a host of stars looking to back up from Origin I against a fresh Warriors side in Auckland before hosting the Knights in round 14.
They then head straight into two very tough away games: premiers Sydney Roosters (set to be in Adelaide again) then the Dragons in Wollongong before returning home for an always-tough meeting with Cronulla.
And another thing: The Storm get their first taste of Carrington Park at Bathurst in what has become an annual home fixture for Penrith. They will be Penrith’s fifth different opponents there in six years and hoping to be the second straight visiting team to taste victory after North Queensland’s win there in 2018.
Teams they play twice: Panthers, Dragons, Sea Eagles, Titans, Eels, Warriors, Bulldogs, Roosters, Wests Tigers.
Teams they play once: Sharks, Raiders, Rabbitohs, Storm, Broncos, Cowboys.
Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday – Zero, Friday – Six, Saturday – Twelve, Sunday – Six.
Five-day turnarounds: 1 (Rd 11).
The Knights’ key five games
Kick-off: Newcastle have a chance to build some early momentum with three of their first four matches at McDonald Jones Stadium. However, they face three teams which made last season’s finals in those matches plus a trip to Canberra in round three.
Toughest stretch: Rounds 8-11. The Knights enjoy a glut of home games to start the season (five in the first seven rounds) but the trade-off comes immediately after that with a tricky spell on the road, three of those against 2018 top-eight finishers.
They head to Auckland in round eight, play the Bulldogs at Suncorp in Magic Round in round nine, head to Mudgee to play the Dragons in round 10 before returning home to host premiers Sydney Roosters in round 11 off a five-day turnaround.
And another thing: Old Boys’ Day is always a big event in the Hunter. In 2019, for the first time in three years, the Knights are away in the final round of the year meaning the event will take place in round 24 at 3pm on a Saturday against the Titans. Expect it to be one of Newcastle’s best-attended games once again.
New Zealand Warriors
Teams they play twice: Sea Eagles, Titans, Rabbitohs, Storm, Knights, Panthers, Broncos, Sharks, Raiders.
Teams they play once: Bulldogs, Wests Tigers, Cowboys, Dragons, Eels, Roosters.
Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday – One, Friday – Seven, Saturday – Twelve, Sunday – Four.
Five-day turnarounds: 1 (Rd 7).
The Warriors’ key five games
Kick-off: The Warriors will need to clear customs just once in the opening month of the Telstra Premiership – they kick off the season in Auckland against Canterbury before travelling to Campbelltown in round two for a Sunday clash with the Wests Tigers. They will technically be the away team in round three against Manly in Christchurch before heading back to Mt Smart Stadium for a tussle with the Titans.
Toughest stretch: Rounds 22-25. A bigger travel load is a given for the Auckland-based club but mercifully they do not head to Sydney on more than two consecutive weeks at any stage in 2019. Probably the toughest spell is the run into the finals, starting with premiers Sydney Roosters at the SCG in round 22 followed by the Sharks at Shark Park the following week off a six-day turnaround. They return home off another six-day break to host the Rabbitohs before plenty more travel in round 25 when they venture to Canberra to round off the regular season.
And another thing: Even though the Warriors jagged their first win in Perth in round one last season, Stephen Kearney’s men will be relieved they have dodged the huge return trip altogether this year for the first time since 2011, contributing to a drop in the team’s overall travel workload in 2019.
North Queensland Cowboys
Teams they play twice: Dragons, Broncos, Sharks, Raiders, Storm, Bulldogs, Titans, Rabbitohs, Wests Tigers.
Teams they play once: Warriors, Eels, Sea Eagles, Roosters, Knights, Panthers.
Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday – Four, Friday – Eight, Saturday – Nine, Sunday – Three.
Five-day turnarounds: 1 (Rd 19).
The Cowboys’ key five games
Kick-off: North Queensland won’t leave the Sunshine State in the first four rounds – hosting the Dragons, playing the Broncos in Brisbane before returning to Townsville for duels with the Sharks and Raiders. It should be an early advantage in the warmer earlier rounds for the Cowboys after a long summer training in the tropical heat..
Toughest stretch: Rounds 17-22. The Cowboys are likely to be less affected by Origin than has been the case in recent years but they’ll have their hands full either way heading out of the rep period and the round-16 bye.
The run starts with premiers Sydney Roosters in Sydney before returning home to host the Rabbitohs, a tough trip to Cronulla off a five-day turnaround then Wests Tigers at Western Sydney Stadium before returning home to face traditional rivals Brisbane.
And another thing: The Cowboys have arguably the NRL’s biggest contingent of travelling fans, meaning a Saturday slot for home games can help those from outside the Townsville area get to and from games. The 2019 draw contains an increase from five Saturday home games to six, with four Friday games (down from five) and two Thursday games.
Teams they play twice: Panthers, Bulldogs, Sharks, Raiders, Wests Tigers, Knights, Dragons, Broncos, Sea Eagles.
Teams they play once: Roosters, Storm, Cowboys, Rabbitohs, Warriors, Titans.
Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday – two, Friday – Five, Saturday – Eight, Sunday – Eight, Monday – One.
Five-day turnarounds: 2 (Rd 3, Rd 11).
Kick-off: When you’re the wooden spooners, every game is a tough game but for Parramatta, the early schedule is favourable in that they don’t leave Sydney’s west in the first four rounds – away to Penrith first up before three straight ANZ Stadium fixtures against the Dogs, Roosters and Sharks.
Toughest stretch: Rounds 9-14. The toughest patch for the Eels comes from round nine. Their Magic Round game at Suncorp is against perennial tormentors Melbourne, before they face the Cowboys in Townsville where the Blue & Gold have just two wins since 2000. They return off a five-day turnaround for a local derby at home against a Penrith side that punished them twice in 2018 followed by the impressive Bunnies, also at home. They head from there to Cronulla to face a Sharks side that has beaten them five times on the bounce before hosting the dangerous Broncos.
The Eels’ key five games
And another thing: After having their 2018 season effectively derailed in the opening fortnight on the back of one comeback (round one at Penrith) and one flogging (round two at Brookvale), both in sweltering heat, hopefully the Eels spend this summer on the sand dunes because they have two more Sunday day games to kick off 2019.
Teams they play twice: Eels, Knights, Wests Tigers, Titans, Sharks, Rabbitohs, Raiders, Warriors, Roosters.
Teams they play once: Storm, Sea Eagles, Dragons, Bulldogs, Broncos, Cowboys.
Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday – Three, Friday – Ten, Saturday – Six, Sunday – Five.
Five-day turnarounds: 0.
Kick-off: After being eliminated in the second round of the playoffs, Penrith’s campaign to go further in 2019 will begin with three out of their first four matches on home turf, including a round-three sojourn to their west against the Storm in Bathurst. They also play three teams in the opening month who didn’t make last year’s playoffs so they have a golden opportunity to reverse their recent trend of slow starts to the season.
The Panthers’ key five games
Toughest stretch: Rounds 5-9. Penrith for the most part have their tougher games and travel fairly well spread out through the season. There is a tricky spell from round five to nine in which they are at home just once, with two trips to Queensland and one to Wagga. The only home game in that spell is against a Rabbitohs side that finished third on the ladder last season while there is also a very tough trip to Shark Park in round six.
And another thing: The Penrith boys will get to spend plenty of time with each other on the Panther bus in 2019, especially early on, with road trips to Newcastle (round two), Bathurst (round three) and Wagga (round eight) plus five plane trips through the season to Brisbane (twice), Gold Coast, Auckland and Townsville.
St George Illawarra Dragons
Teams they play twice: Cowboys, Rabbitohs, Knights, Bulldogs, Sea Eagles, Roosters, Eels, Sharks, Titans.
Teams they play once: Broncos, Warriors, Storm, Raiders, Panthers, Wests Tigers.
Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday – Four, Friday – Three, Saturday – Six, Sunday – Ten, Monday – One.
Five-day turnarounds: 3 (Rd 2, Rd 7, Rd 18).
Kick-off: St George Illawarra will have their mettle tested in the opening month of the season with just one match at home against the Rabbitohs at Kogarah in round two. They also have a couple of trips to Queensland to face the Cowboys and Broncos plus a round-four assignment in Newcastle.
The Dragons’ key five games
Toughest stretch: Rounds 7-11. The Dragons have four straight games away from their regular home venues from round seven, kicking off against premiers Sydney Roosters at the SCG before a visit to the Eels and a clash with the Warriors at Suncorp for Magic Round, plus a “home” game at Mudgee against the Knights.
And another thing: The Dragons take a home game to picturesque Glen Willow Stadium in Mudgee for the second time after a successful outing there against Canberra last season. This time it will be the Knights getting their first taste of the venue in round 10.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Teams they play twice: Roosters, Dragons, Sea Eagles, Warriors, Bulldogs, Panthers, Broncos, Cowboys, Wests Tigers.
Teams they play once: Titans, Raiders, Eels, Knights, Sharks, Storm.
Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday – Four, Friday – Eight, Saturday – Nine, Sunday – Three.
Five-day turnarounds: 0.
Kick-off: Souths begin their mission to improve upon this year’s preliminary final finish with a showdown against their traditional rivals, the Roosters, at the SCG on the first Friday night of the season. They only have one home game in the first four rounds, against the Titans at ANZ Stadium in round three, as well another couple of Sydney fixtures away to the Dragons and Sea Eagles.
The Rabbitohs’ key five games
Toughest stretch: Rounds 18-24. The Bunnies mostly have their tougher games and trips spread out but there are a few tough asks in the seven weeks from round 18 with three trips to Queensland and one to New Zealand and plenty of 2018’s finalists in the Dragons, Sharks, Storm, Broncos and Warriors contained in that stretch.
And another thing: The Bunnies took home games to Perth, Cairns and Gosford last year – this year Central Coast Stadium gets another home game (round 21 against the Storm) while the other two home games taken on the road will be round five’s Sunshine Coast Stadium match against the Warriors plus Magic Round at Suncorp Stadium in round nine.
Teams they play twice: Rabbitohs, Broncos, Storm, Dragons, Wests Tigers, Raiders, Knights, Panthers, Bulldogs.
Teams they play once: Sea Eagles, Eels, Sharks, Cowboys, Titans, Warriors.
Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday – Three, Friday – Seven, Saturday – Six, Sunday – Eight.
Five-day turnarounds: 2 (Rd 10, Rd 25).
The Roosters’ key five games
Kick-off: The 2018 premiers kick off their campaign to become the first team in more than 25 years to successfully defend their title by going up against South Sydney at the SCG. The Roosters, who will play home matches at the ground in 2019 while Allianz Stadium is being rebuilt, also take on Brisbane at the famous venue in round four after road trips to Manly and Parramatta.
Toughest stretch: Rounds 4-8. The Roosters will want to hit their straps early in 2019 because they have five tough games in a row starting less than a month into the season.
In round four, they host Brisbane – a club that downed the premiers twice in 2018 – then travel to Cronulla before heading to Melbourne in round six before two home games against the Dragons and the Wests Tigers – a team that gave them plenty of trouble last season despite not making the top eight themselves.
And another thing: Grand final star Cooper Cronk will finally get a chance to play at his old home ground of AAMI Park as an away player. Last year the eventual grand final combatants met just once through the regular season, in Adelaide. The fixture in the South Australian capital is on again with the Tricolours set to host the Storm in round 15 but they also travel to Melbourne in round six for a Friday night blockbuster which also shapes as a grand final rematch.
Teams they play twice: Sea Eagles, Bulldogs, Panthers, Eels, Roosters, Rabbitohs, Raiders, Cowboys, Knights.
Teams they play once: Warriors, Broncos, Titans, Storm, Dragons, Sharks.
Day-by-day breakdown: Thursday – Five, Friday – Six, Saturday – Seven, Sunday – Five, Monday – One.
Five-day turnarounds: 3 (Rd 4, Rd 7, Rd 22).
The Tigers’ key five games
Kick-off: The Wests Tigers are the only team which will play their first three matches at home in 2019 – Leichhardt Oval clashes with Manly and Canterbury either side of a round-two tussle with the Warriors at Campbelltown. They remain in Sydney as well for round four when they head to Penrith.
Toughest stretch: Rounds 7-11. By the time the Wests Tigers hit their round-12 bye they should have a pretty good idea of their potential finals credentials.
And the bye will probably be welcome after a five-week stretch that includes trips to Tamworth, Brisbane and Melbourne as well as four straight games against 2018 top-eight sides – including both grand final teams.
And another thing: The Tigers are locked in for four home games at Western Sydney Stadium, replacing the four home games they played at ANZ Stadium last season. Campbelltown Stadium and Leichhardt Oval (three each) and Scully Park at Tamworth (one game) have the same allotment as last season. The remaining home game will be played at Suncorp for Magic Round in 2019 rather than in Auckland.
Published by Chris Kennedy & Tanisha Stanton, 5th December 2018 on nrl.com