EXACTLY one month from today the NRL season will kick-off at Stadium Australia, with an opening weekend triple-header marking the beginning of an action-packed footy season in which five clubs will call Stadium Australia home.
In total, Stadium Australia will host 27 NRL games featuring 13 Sydney v Sydney derbies between the home clubs, as well as State of Origin II, finals series fixtures and the pinnacle, the NRL Grand Final.
Player representatives from each of the five home clubs joined forces at the Sydney Olympic Park venue today to start the countdown. The players were South Sydney Rabbitohs captain John Sutton, Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs powerhouse Aiden Tolman, Parramatta Eels’ new recruit Corey Norman, Wests Tigers’ rising star Curtis Sironen, and St George Illawarra Dragons’ new signing Michael Witt.
NRL opening weekend is the first major highlight of the 2014 season at Stadium Australia.
It will launch when arch-rivals the Rabbitohs and Roosters go head-to-head in a minor premiership re-match on Thursday 6 March. This will be followed by an explosive Round 1 match-up featuring the Brisbane Broncos’ new recruit Ben Barba against his former club the Bulldogs on Friday 7 March. Then home ground bragging rights will be on the line for the first time for new tenants the St George Illawarra Dragons and Wests Tigers on Sunday 9 March.
Stadium Australia managing director Daryl Kerry said: “Stadium Australia is working with the NRL on a “right game, right venue, right time” strategy, with the focus on making the big games bigger.
“An example of this philosophy is the blockbuster Easter weekend double-header, when the traditional Good Friday clash (18 April) between the Rabbitohs and Bulldogs will be followed by what is expected to be an annual Easter Monday showdown between the Eels and Wests Tigers.
“Members of the five clubs will be big winners in 2014, with reciprocal Stadium entry rights available for most derbies, and there will be transport initiatives to these games announced soon.
“2013 was the Stadium’s biggest year of events since the 2000 Olympics with more than 1.6 million fans coming through the gates – and the foundations are in place for another mighty year in 2014.”
The NRL fan experience will also be greatly enhanced at Stadium Australia in 2014 as a result of the Connected Stadium project, with Cisco and Telstra teaming up to provide free high-speed Wi-Fi throughout the Stadium and the surrounding precinct.
With more than 700 wireless access points, the network has been configured in a similar manner to Metlife Stadium, New York, which was the first Superbowl host to provide a high-speed Wi-Fi service, just this week.
The phased Connected Stadium project means Stadium Australia will transform into an interactive playground where fans will be able to access the most up-to-date event information, rich digital content like replays and statistics, and share their event experience and interact with fans on social media even when the Stadium is at capacity. In time, they will be able to order food and beverages from their seats and will be rewarded for their game-day loyalty.