SBW to feature in NRL season-opener

STEVE JANCETIC
Last updated 21:02 22/11/2012
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CHAMP: Sonny Bill Williams.

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Sonny Bill Williams' Sydney Roosters will open the season and fans will have to wait just a few rounds for a grand-final rematch when the NRL unveils its long-awaited 2013 draw on Friday.

Premiers Melbourne will host Canterbury in a match which will take centre stage in round three when they clash at AAMI Park on Thursday March 21, two weeks after the Roosters host traditional rivals South Sydney at Allianz Stadium to kick off the season.

"We're pleased to be hosting the Bulldogs early. It will be interesting to have rugby league in Victoria on a Thursday night," Storm chief executive Ron Gauci told AAP.

"We're looking forward to it and very excited about the prospect of having the grand-final rematch at AAMI Park that early in the season."

Asked about the prospects of putting up the 'house full' sign, Gauci said: "We would hope so, but again Thursday night is an experiment. We would hope Melburnians would like to come and see that game."

A massive crowd will also be expected for the season-opener on March 7, which will no doubt be double-billed as Williams' return to rugby league, almost five years after walking out on the code.

Fans and clubs have been sweating on the draw for some weeks, with the 2013 edition to be the first featuring fixed scheduling for the majority of the season.

Ricky Stuart's life as Parramatta coach will kick off with a home encounter against the Warriors in a Saturday night encounter, while Manly will host rivals Newcastle in round two in another 2013 innovation - a Sunday twilight encounter.

Other notable fixtures include Cronulla's Friday night away game against Wests Tigers, when a plethora of Sharks' players will face up to their former teammates, while St George Illawarra's 12-year hoodoo in the nation's capital will go on the line in round three when they take on Canberra.

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- AAP

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