NRL: Warriors to face Eels in opener

The Warriors won this year's clash in Parramatta. Photo / Getty Images
The Warriors won this year's clash in Parramatta. Photo / Getty Images

The New Zealand Warriors will open the 2013 NRL with an away match against the Parramatta Eels, it was announced last night.

It means seasoned coaches Matthew Elliott and Ricky Stuart will go head-to-head in their debuts for their new teams.

Details of seven other matches were also confirmed, notably an opening night blockbuster between the Sydney Roosters and South Sydney at Allianz Stadium on Thursday, March 7, creating a stage for Sonny Bill Williams to make his NRL return for the Roosters.

The full NRL draw will be announced at 1pm today.

Today's release of the 2013 draw will herald a major breakthrough with a fixed schedule announced for the first 20 rounds of the season (exact dates and times will be confirmed with details for the final six rounds to be revealed after the 16th round).

Elliott is pleased with the opening match.

"It'll be great for us to start our season against Parramatta. We're more than happy with that," he said as the Vodafone Warriors neared the end of the third week of off-season training.

"But there's no question the fixed nature of the schedule for the first 20 rounds is even more critical. It's going to make such a huge difference to preparation and planning, especially for us with the travel demands we face.

"It's also brilliant for our members. They'll now be able to plan their lives around football with confidence next year."

The scheduling of another early clash between the Warriors and Parramatta extends a trend over the last eight seasons bucked only in 2010.

The two sides met in the second round this year, clashed in the opening round at Eden Park last year and also faced each other first off in 2009. In 2008 the two clubs clashed in the second round following an opening-round encounter in 2007 and a second-round meeting in 2006.

When the draw is announced today it will confirm 10 home matches for the Vodafone Warriors at Mount Smart Stadium with another game at Eden Park, the third in three seasons at the country's biggest stadium.

- nzherald.co.nz

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