The NRL has released the first two rounds of its revised 2020 season draw, with the Warriors set to restart their campaign against the Dragons.
The Warriors will face the Dragons on Saturday 30 May, followed by the Panthers on June 5, as they look to bounce back from two straight losses before the suspension of the league.
ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys originally set a deadline for the entire draw to be finalised by Friday, but delicate broadcast negotiations have dragged on. The rest of the schedule are set to be made public next week.
Despite all the drama, the NRL delivered the first full fixtures for Round 3 and Round 4 of the competition in an announcement today — after the first two rounds were played before the game was brought to a shuddering halt by coronavirus restrictions.
It was revealed before the announcement that the NRL planned to use BankWest Stadium and NetStrata Jubilee Stadium (formerly WIN Jubilee Stadium) in Kogarah as its two home grounds for every Sydney club, as well as Newcastle and Canberra.
The Gold Coast Titans will be forced to play their home games at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, while the Broncos, Melbourne Storm and North Queensland will play at their regular home grounds.
Meanwhile, the 2020 State of Origin series is reportedly set for a shake-up as an end-of-season showpiece that will be staged over three consecutive weeks, beginning November 4.
According to The Daily Telegraph, the NRL is expected to confirm next week the series will be played on three consecutive Wednesday nights — November 4, 11, and 18.
The venues have not yet been announced with the NRL reportedly still holding out hope of staging one game at the Adelaide Oval as part of a previous $6 million deal with the South Australian government. Game 1 was originally scheduled for the Adelaide Oval in June before coronavirus restrictions wreaked havoc on the game.
The NRL has also been unable to announce the venues for the third and fourth rounds of the competition, despite the fixtures being confirmed on Friday.
The fixtures include a Brisbane-Parramatta showdown as the game that will re-start the season on Thursday, May 28.
A Roosters-Rabbitohs grudge match headlines the action for the first Friday night of the re-launched season.
Cementing the competition schedule has been a minefield for V'landys with the NRL also juggling anti-vaccination headaches that could see some players denied special exemptions to enter Queensland after the government's decision to stand firm on a "no jab, no play" policy.
The Queensland government last week said influenza immunisations were part of the biosecurity protocols the NRL promised in its request to allow the season to re-start on May 28 in the northern state.
The NRL has also been juggling a sensitive workplace dispute with the game's referees after
the referees union made a complaint with the Fair Work Commission over the NRL's new one-referee system. Strike action has not been ruled out.
V'landys earlier said the biggest headache surrounding the season fixture was locking in an agreement with broadcast partners Channel 9 and Foxtel.
"The problem we have is the broadcasters. We are caught in the middle of it, we are trying to finalise it," V'landys told News Corp.
"I've discussed with (acting chief executive) Andrew (Abdo) and Andrew and I agree we should just do the first two rounds to get the coaches up and going again.
"We will do the rest by next week. I'm frustrated like everyone else about the draw."
Round 3 matches
May 28 Thursday:
Broncos vs Eels 9.50pm
May 29 Friday:
Cowboys vs Titans 8pm
Roosters vs Rabbitohs 9.55pm.
May 30 Saturday:
Warriors vs Dragons 5pm
Sharks vs Tigers 7.30pm
Storm vs Raiders 9.35pm
May 31 Sunday
Panthers vs Knights 6.05pm
Sea Eagles vs Bulldogs 8.30pm.
Round 4 matches
June 4 Thursday
Broncos vs Roosters 9.50pm
June 5 Friday
Panthers vs Warriors 8pm
Storm vs Rabbitohs 9.55pm
June 6 Saturday
Eels vs Sea Eagles 7.30pm
Cowboys vs Sharks 9.35pm
June 7 Sunday
Raiders vs Knights 6.05pm
Titans v Tigers 8.30pm
June 8 Monday
Bulldogs vs Dragons 6.05pm