St George Illawarra’s shift to major Sydney stadiums for home games will put to an immediate test after the Dragons were drawn to host the Wests Tigers at ANZ Stadium in round one next year.
Life after Benji Marshall for the Tigers will begin against the Dragons’ band of new recruits with a 4pm Sunday afternoon kick-off at Homebush, one of five venues the Red V will call ‘‘home’’ in 2014.
In other keenly-anticipated Dragons matches following the release of the draw this morning:
* The Dragons will host South Sydney in their Heritage Round clash at the SCG in round five
* Jamie Soward will have to wait until round 14 to clash with his former teammates before an emotional return to Wollongong in round 22
* St George Illawarra’s dreaded trip to Canberra won’t roll around until round 23
* The Dragons will finish the season with a daunting trip to Hunter Stadium to take on old master Wayne Bennett’s Knights for Newcastle’s Old Boys day
The Dragons’ four home games in Wollongong will be against the Broncos (round four), Sharks (round 13), Storm (round 16) and Panthers (round 22).
By contrast St George Illawarra will play three out-of-town teams in their four fixtures at Kogarah, including the Warriors, Cowboys and Titans.
Dragons chief executive officer Peter Doust again defended the club’s ‘‘right game right venue’’ strategy, which will see home matches played at ANZ Stadium and the SCG.
‘‘We will always be committed to our region and our traditions; however we also want all our members and fans to be able to see the biggest games of the year, and to receive increased benefits,’’ he said.
‘‘The draw is a very complex and complicated process and we are pleased to have been provided with a number of marquee matches that will feature prominently in the NRL calendar, and with venue availability taken into consideration we have been able to deliver a balanced split of games across our venues.’’
Round 1: Sunday, March 9 v Tigers (ANZ Stadium, 3pm)
R2: Saturday, March 15 v Warriors (Eden Park, 3pm)
R3: Saturday, March 22 v Sharks (Remondis Stadium, 7pm)
R4: Friday, March 28 v Broncos (WIN Stadium, 8pm)
R5: Saturday, April 5 v Rabbitohs (SCG), 7.30pm)
R6: Monday, April 14 v Storm (AAMI Park, 7pm)
R7: Saturday, April 19 v Warriors (WIN Jubilee Oval, 5.30pm)
R8: Friday, April 25 v Roosters (Allianz Stadium, 4pm)
R9: Sunday, May 11 v Bulldogs (ANZ Stadium, 3pm)
R10: Saturday, May 17 v Eels (Pirtek Stadium, 3pm)
R12: Monday, June 2 v Rabbitohs (ANZ Stadium, 7pm)
R13: Saturday, June 7 v Sharks (WIN Stadium, 7.30pm)
R14: Saturday, June 14 v Panthers (Centrebet Stadium, 5.30pm)
R15: Sunday, June 22 v Titans (Robina Stadium, 3pm)
R16: Monday, June 30 v Storm (WIN Stadium, 7pm)
R17: Saturday, July 5 v Cowboys (WIN Jubilee Oval, 5.30pm)
R19: Monday, July 21 v Sea Eagles (WIN Jubilee Oval, 7pm)
R20: Sunday, July 27 v Tigers (ANZ Stadium, 3pm)
R21: August 1-4 v Roosters (Allianz Stadium)
R22: August 8-11 v Panthers (WIN Stadium)
R23: August 15-18 v Raiders (GIO Stadium, Canberra)
R24: August 22-25 v Titans (WIN Jubilee Oval)
R25: August 29-September 1 v Broncos (Suncorp Stadium)
R26: September 5-7 v Knights (Hunter Stadium)