Rnd 1 draw revealed: Blockbuster to launch 2021 NRL season
The NRL will launch next season with a face-off between supercoaches Wayne Bennett and Craig Bellamy in a South Sydney Rabbitohs v Melbourne Storm blockbuster.
The match will be played on Thursday, March 11, in a return home to AAMI Park after 10 months away from the Storm's Melbourne fans.
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The Daily Telegraph can reveal the opening round of the competition also features Kevvie Walters debuting as Broncos coach against the Parramatta Eels on a Friday night. The Eels obliterated the Broncos 58-0 the 2019 finals at Bankwest Stadium and knocked them off twice last season, 34-6 and 26-12.
But it's the Bennett v Bellamy showdown that will highlight the opening night. Bellamy was the man the Broncos tried to hire in 2018 which led to Bennett's stormy departure at the end of that season once it was known he was not wanted.
Storm haven't played at home since round four last season. It's likely to be a new dawn for the Storm, who are expected to start the 2021 season without Cameron Smith in their playing squad for the first time since 2001.
Rabbitohs' superstar fullback Latrell Mitchell will be back from injury, facing off against Melbourne's Clive Churchill Medallist Ryan Papenhuyzen.
The Warriors have been given a first-round Auckland home game on Saturday against the Titans - the venue dependent on borders being opened.
The Saturday games are still subject to late change with Fox Sports in discussions with the NRL over the schedule.
The Pay TV network will cover the traditional Dragons v Sharks local derby at Kogarah Oval in round one, in the Sunday 6.30pm timeslot.
The NRL is launching on the first two nights out of Melbourne, Newcastle and Brisbane.
However on Saturday the Roosters will host Manly and the Panthers will host the Cowboys.
The SCG is subject to availability and a possible clash with a Sydney Swans home game.
The NRL hopes to release the full season schedule on Thursday. Anzac Day games will see the Sea Eagles play the Bulldogs, the Roosters up against the Dragons and Storm hosting the Warriors.
Originally published as Rnd 1 draw revealed: Blockbuster to launch 2021 NRL season