The NRL has unveiled details of the biggest season in the game’s history, with the launch of a 2022 draw which features homecoming matches for most clubs, a record number of regional games and an expanded Telstra Women’s Premiership.
Starting with the Harvey Norman All Stars clash on February 12, the 2022 season includes two NRLW competitions, State of Origin and 192 Telstra Premiership matches before the finals and the World Cup in England.
For the first time, draws were announced simultaneously on Tuesday for the NRL and NRLW, which will commence with a triple-header at McDonald Jones Stadium on February 27.
The grand final of the NRL Telstra Women’s Premiership, which was postponed from this year, will be played on April 10 and there will be a second NRLW competition later in the season.
The first two rounds of the expanded six-team NRLW competition, including a second triple-header at WIN Stadium on March 6, will be played before the NRL competition kicks off on March 10 at Penrith.
Action-packed major events schedule unveiled for 2022
The Panthers will open the Telstra Premiership season and their defence of the Provan-Summons Trophy with a homecoming match against Manly on March 10.
The round one blockbuster will be the first NRL match in Sydney for nine months after the competition was relocated to Queensland in June due to COVID-19 restrictions.
South Sydney’s grand final captain Adam Reynolds will face his former club first up when the Rabbitohs travel to Brisbane to play the Broncos on March 11 in front of an anticipated capacity Suncorp Stadium crowd.
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said the release of the draw was an opportunity to celebrate the homecoming of NSW teams, as well as the Storm and Raiders, and the exciting potential of the Warriors returning to Auckland for the first time since 2019 to host the Panthers.
“The 2022 schedule celebrates the tribalism of our biggest rivalries back in their home towns,” Abdo said.
“It is wonderful to be scheduling matches in NSW, the ACT and Victoria again after the relocation in 2021 and we are confident we will see the homecoming of the Warriors to New Zealand.
"We have all been through a lot together through COVID, it has been over nine months since teams from NSW, the ACT and Victoria have been able to play in front of their home fans, and for the Warriors it’s over two years.
“It is also a great homecoming for our new NRLW clubs, each of whom will get an opportunity to play in front of their home crowds in an expanded six-team competition.
The 2022 Ampol State of Origin series will be played in Sydney on Wednesday, June 8, Perth on Sunday, June 26 and Brisbane on Wednesday, July 13.
The Women’s State of Origin will be played on Friday, June 24.
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"That stand alone Origin weekend will be extra special for us," Abdo said. "We are planning some extra, additional fixtures so we are making sure that we are playing football from Thursday all the way through to Sunday.
"There will be a new fixture announced on Thursday evening, we play the women's State of Origin on Friday, we play and look forward to the rebirth of some international fixtures on Saturday and, of course, the State of Origin men's game on Sunday in Perth."
Other draw highlights include:
- Warriors returning to Mt Smart Stadium for the first time in 1023 days to play Penrith on June 18 ahead of further home matches against the Tigers, Storm, Bulldogs and Titans.
- The Storm’s first match in Melbourne for nine months on March 17 against Souths, with suspended stars Cameron Munster and Brandon Smith available for the AAMI Stadium fixture.
- The third Magic Round in Brisbane, with a Queensland-based team featuring on each of the three days in round 10.
- The introduction of a new Multicultural Round, along with the return of Indigenous Round, Harvey Norman Women in League Round and Beanies For Brain Cancer Round.
- Back-to-back marquee Easter and ANZAC Rounds - the latter featuring matches in Sydney, Brisbane, Townsville, Newcastle and Melbourne.
- A record equalling number of regional fixtures, with matches to be played in Darwin, Dubbo, Wagga Wagga, Coffs Harbour, Bathurst, Mudgee, Tamworth, Sunshine Coast, Bundaberg and Mackay.
- The Craig Fitzgibbon-led Sharks returning to PointsBet Stadium after two years in round two against the Eels.
- The round two clash of superstar fullbacks James Tedesco and Tom Trbojevic when Sydney Roosters host Manly at Central Coast Stadium on March 18.
- Star Cronulla signing Cameron McInnes’s first appearance against his former Dragons team-mates in the round three derby match at WIN Stadium on March 24.
- The latest instalment of league’s longest rivalry when Latrell Mitchell returns from suspension for the Rabbitohs on March 25 to take on the Roosters at Stadium Australia.
- The first daytime derby clash between the Broncos and Cowboys in 16 years when the Queensland rivals face off in round three at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday, March 27.
- The grand final re-match between the Panthers and Rabbitohs at Penrith’s BlueBet Stadium on April 1.
The Telstra Premiership finals series will begin on September 9 and conclude with a grand final double-header on October 2 for the NRL and NRLW competitions.
"We will get excited at the end of the season as we were at the start of the season for the second iteration of the NRLW [in 2022], potentially with more teams, potentially with more rounds," Abdo said.
"All of this will culminate in two spectacular grand finals on October 2 - a celebration of teams across the NRL and NRLW, who have sacrificed a lot and had a long season.
"This is what it all comes down to see who will win the NRL and NRLW trophies."
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Abdo thanked the NRL’s broadcast partners Channel Nine, Fox Sports, Sky Sports New Zealand and Telstra for their ongoing partnership and support in growing the game.
He also thanked the clubs and the RLPA for their involvement and support in the draw process.
“Keeping the competition going in 2021 was a team effort. Our partners have supported us throughout," Abdo said.
"In 2022 we have a great deal to look forward to but as always we will be ready to adapt and adjust our plans should the need arise."