Reigning premiers Melbourne Storm set for Perth showdown as NRL release 2021 fixtures

Pamela WhaleyThe West Australian
Cameron Munster (left) and Cameron Smith of the Storm lift the Provan-Summons trophy following their win in the NRL Grand Final between the Penrith Panthers and Melbourne Storm.
Camera IconCameron Munster (left) and Cameron Smith of the Storm lift the Provan-Summons trophy following their win in the NRL Grand Final between the Penrith Panthers and Melbourne Storm. Credit: DAN HIMBRECHTS/AAPIMAGE

HBF Park will host reigning NRL premiers the Melbourne Storm as the NRL’s fixture release reveals two huge match-ups for Perth’s league community.

The Storm will take on Canterbury on Saturday the 10th of April before the competition returns on May 29 in a rematch of the 2019 grand final between Canberra and the Sydney Roosters

Both fixtures were originally scheduled for the 2020 season but were cancelled due to the coronavirus’s impact on interstate travel, NRLWA general manager John Sackson sees the announcement as a win for WA league fans.

“After the disappointment of having these two fixtures cancelled due to Covid this year it is fantastic news to have both games re-instated for the 2021 season,” he said.

“It will be a terrific opportunity for WA sports fans to see the star-studded reigning premiers, the Melbourne Storm, against incoming coach Trent Barrett’s new look Bulldogs outfit who are tipped to be the big improvers of the Telstra Premiership.

“Likewise, it will be a wonderful privilege to be able to see the Sydney Roosters and the Canberra Raiders, 2019 grand finalists and two of the real powerhouse clubs of the competition, reignite their rivalry at HBF Park.

“During their visits all four clubs will be undertaking community engagement activities including visits to select schools and junior rugby league clubs around Perth.”

The league’s yearly journey to WA isn’t the only western voyage within the schedule, the Warriors to find out next month whether they will need to relocate to the Central Coast once again for the start of next year’s NRL season.

On Thursday the NRL announced a full 25-round draw for the 2021 season with the Warriors scheduled to play 11 games at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.

However, there are contingencies in place should the border between New Zealand and Australia remain closed including playing blocks of games in Australia.

Jordan Rapana of the Raiders reacts during the Round 19 NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and New Zealand Warriors at GIO Stadium in Canberra, Sunday, September 20, 2020. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Camera IconJordan Rapana of the Raiders reacts during the Round 19 NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and New Zealand Warriors at GIO Stadium in Canberra, Sunday, September 20, 2020. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY Credit: AAPIMAGE

NRLWA general manager John Sackson said: “After the disappointment of having these two fixtures cancelled due to Covid this year it is fantastic news to have both games re-instated for the 2021 season.

“It will be a terrific opportunity for WA sports fans to see the star-studded reigning premiers, the Melbourne Storm, against incoming coach Trent Barrett’s new look Bulldogs outfit who are tipped to be the big improvers of the Telstra Premiership.

“Likewise, it will be a wonderful privilege to be able to see the Sydney Roosters and the Canberra Raiders, 2019 grand finalists and two of the real powerhouse clubs of the competition, reignite their rivalry at HBF Park.

“During their visits all four clubs will be undertaking community engagement activities including visits to select schools and junior rugby league clubs around Perth.”

In announcing the draw, NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said he is confident the border would be open in time for the season but the timing could also affect the pre-season.

And should the trans-Tasman border not re-open in the coming weeks, a decision could be made to relocate the side to Australia for the NRL preseason.

“We’ve been in constant dialogue with the CEO and the chairman of the Warriors around planning for their pre-season, because it’s not just about the first round, it’s about the preseason,” Adbo said.

“We’re in quite advance discussions where if there’s at some point in December, making a call as to whether the Warriors relocate to preseason in Australia.

“I would expect that call to be made in the next couple of weeks.”

The Warriors played the entire 2020 NRL season playing out of Australia and have been tentatively rewarded with two home games to start next season.

Melbourne, who played just two NRL games at AAMI Park this year before relocating to the Sunshine Coast, are set to open the season at home against South Sydney on March 11.

The NRL has also announced the return of Magic Round at Suncorp Stadium in round 10, a reduction in five-day turnarounds and a more even spread of free-to-air matches.

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