The NRL has avoided a massive headache by not scheduling any teams with non-vaccinated players for matches in Queensland in the opening two rounds.
Under a reworked draw announced on Friday, Brisbane will kick off the NRL’s return when they host Parramatta on Thursday night of May 28 to start round three.
South Sydney will clash with arch-rivals Sydney Roosters on the Friday night, as another highlight in the schedule which only included rounds three and four.
Games will be played in NSW and Queensland, with the NRL still to determine what venues will be used.
Crucially though, none of Canberra, Manly or Canterbury are drawn to play away matches against Queensland teams in the opening fortnight.
Penrith also have both their games in Sydney, after not disclosing to the media whether all their players had been vaccinated.
Had they been set to travel to Queensland, it would have caused a political storm given that state government will now allow players to take to the field without the jab unless they have a medical exemption.
“Today we have released the next two rounds of the draw to provide certainty for clubs, coaches and players so they can plan for the coming weeks,” NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said.
“We are currently finalising the full draw with our broadcast partners and key stakeholders.”
“Rugby league is so important to so many people.
“We hope that the football resuming will bring some positivity and excitement back to our fans and the wider community.”
Under the revised draw, there will be no Monday night football between Parramatta and Wests Tigers in round three as had previously been expected.
The Tigers will instead face Cronulla on the Saturday night, while the Warriors clash with the Dragons and Melbourne feature in a blockbuster against Canberra on the same night.
Penrith play Newcastle and Manly face off against Canterbury on the Sunday.
There will be no double-headers in the schedule, while no venue will host more than one game in one day.
REVISED NRL DRAW FOR OPENING FORTNIGHT:
Thursday: 7.50pm – Brisbane v Parramatta
Friday: 6pm – North Queensland v Gold Coast, 7.55pm – Sydney Roosters v South Sydney
Saturday: 3pm – Warriors v St Geoge Illawarra, 5.30pm – Cronulla v Wests Tigers, 7.35pm – Melbourne v Canberra
Sunday: 4.05pm – Penrith v Newcastle, 6.30pm – Manly v Cantebury
Thursday: 7.50pm – Brisbane v Sydney Roosters
Friday: 6pm – Penrith v Warriors, 7.55pm – Melbourne v South Sydney
Saturday: 5.30pm – Parramatta v Manly, 7.35pm – North Queensland v Cronulla
Sunday: 4.05pm – Canberra v Newcastle, 6.30pm – Gold Coast v Wests Tigers
Monday (Queen’s Birthday): 4.05pm – Canterbury v St George Illawarra