The NRL has announced a 20-round restructure of this year’s competition after finalising negotiations with broadcasters on Tuesday.
The rejigged draw includes the two rounds already completed, meaning an additional 18 will be played should the season return as planned on 28 May. A breakdown of those 18 rounds has yet to be provided.
The grand final is scheduled for 25 October, with the lucrative State of Origin series to be held in the weeks following.
Where the grand final will be staged is also unclear, with Australia scheduled to play its first pool match in the T20 World Cup at the SCG on the Saturday before the decider.
With ANZ Stadium due to begin its reconstruction in June, the smaller Bankwest Stadium could be an option for league officials.
The NRL’s innovation committee will look to put the finishing touches on the new-look season when it meets on Wednesday.
All competition points earned before the season was suspended by the coronavirus remain.
Regular season (20 rounds)
The opening two rounds of football will stand, with 18 more to be played. The first game will be played on Thursday 28 May behind closed doors. It’s expected each team will play each other once with no byes, equating to 13 matches. Detail about the extra five rounds has yet to be provided, though there is talk of a series of “rivalry round” fixtures. The round will be played on the last weekend of the regular season.
The finals will be played as usual with the first week beginning Friday 2 October, which would have been the original NRL grand final weekend. In a boost for Channel Nine, no finals matches will clash with Australia’s matches of the Twenty20 World Cup, to which they have the rights.
Grand final (25 October)
The decider will be played on Sunday 25 October, three weeks after the original one was scheduled. At this stage it will likely be at the SCG, unless the Twenty20 World Cup goes ahead. That decision won’t be made until as late as August. If it goes ahead and Australia host Pakistan at the SCG the night before, then the NRL grand final will likely be moved to Bankwest Stadium.
State of Origin (post-season)
Dates and venues for State of Origin have not been announced yet but we do know it will be after the NRL finals. The NRL hopes that can give time for crowds to be able to return to events. It’s likely the matches will be played on Wednesday nights, with November 4 a possible starting date, 10 days after the grand final. There are possible clashes with the T20 World Cup that Nine would want to avoid on Wednesday November 11 and Sunday November 15.