THE State of Origin star power is returning to Wollongong next season, after paltry crowd numbers at WIN Stadium this year.
Just 5662 people turned up to the Thursday night game in August, between St George Illawarra and Brisbane, while the city also hosted Melbourne and North Queensland games without the likes of Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston.
However, the 2017 NRL draw, released on Thursday, is more favourable for Wollongong and the Dragons.
After opening the season at Kogarah against Penrith, the Dragons then tackle Parramatta at WIN Stadium on Sunday night, March 12.
They also take on the Cowboys and Storm in April, before hosting Manly on a Sunday afternoon in round 20 in July. St George Illawarra do not leave NSW until round 11, when they trek to New Zealand.
“It will be great to start the season with back to back home games,” Dragons prop Tariq Sims said.
“Hopefully we can pack out Kogarah and Wollongong and have big home crowds and a great atmosphere to help kick-start our 2017 season.”
However, Sydney-based Dragons fans still received the better outcome of the draw, with five games at Kogarah next year.
The NRL could only secure three of the Dragons’ rivalry games at ANZ Stadium as part of the ‘Right Game, Right Venue’ strategy, resulting in the extra Kogarah clash.
“For the benefit of our Red V Members and supporters we have determined that the best outcome for everyone in 2017 is to take this additional Sydney game to UOW Jubilee Oval, Kogarah,” Dragons chief executive Peter Doust said in a statement.
“As well as delivering a fifth game to UOW Jubilee Oval, Kogarah, we were also able to deliver Sydney clubs Parramatta and Manly to the WIN Stadium schedule.
“Pleasingly for everyone, none of our home games are impacted by ‘Origin stand-downs’.”
DRAGONS 2017 DRAW
WIN Stadium games
R2 v Parramatta, Sunday, March 12 (6.30pm)
R7 v North Queensland, Saturday, April 15 (7.30pm)
R9 v Melbourne, Sunday, April 30 (4pm)
R20 v Manly, Sunday, July 23 (2pm)