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Draw creates opening round blockbusters

01/10/2008 11:12:37 AM Comments (0)

The 2009 NRL season will roar to life on March 13 with an opening round of blockbuster matches to kick-off the second century of premiership rugby league.

Traditional rivals the Sydney Roosters and South Sydney, Brisbane and North Queensland and Manly and the Bulldogs will feature among the round one clashes from March 13-16.

Among the highlights from Wednesday's unveiling of the 2009 draw, new St George Illawarra coach Wayne Bennett will return to Brisbane to face the Broncos in round four.

Teams will don traditional jerseys in round 10 for Heritage Week, while a new-look representative program features a State of Origin match in Melbourne.

NRL Chief Executive David Gallop joined Broncos captain Darren Lockyer and Rabbitohs star Craig Wing at the Grand Final Live Site at Sydney's Martin Place for the historic draw announcement.

It marked the first time the draw has been released in grand final week, ensuring those fans whose teams are not in the decider can also begin dreaming of premiership success.

"Grand Final week is a time to celebrate the achievements of the two best teams in the competition but it also an opportunity to give hope for all fans that their teams can be part of the festivities next season," Gallop said.

Grand Finalists Manly and Melbourne will continue their great rivalry in a rematch of the 2007 and 2008 deciders at Brookvale Oval in Round 8.

May 8 opens a new chapter in representative football with the trans-Tasman Test between Australia and New Zealand at Suncorp Stadium being played on the same night as City-Country in regional NSW.

State of Origin returns to Melbourne for game one of the series, with game two in Sydney and game 3 in Brisbane.

Byes have been structured to ensure more teams have more stars available during the representative season.

Round 20 kicks off the Glory Bound Rounds to the finals Series with matches including Gold Coast v Brisbane, Souths v the Roosters, the Bulldogs v Parramatta and the New Zealand Warriors v the Dragons.

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