AFTER 158 long days, the countdown is nearly over with another blockbuster year of rugby league returning to Stadium Australia in 2013.
The Canterbury Bulldogs, South Sydney Rabbitohs and Parramatta Eels return home to Stadium Australia in Round 2, beginning on Thursday 14 March with the Eels taking their highly-anticipated home game against traditional rivals the Bulldogs to Stadium Australia, before the Rabbitohs tackle the Cronulla Sharks on Monday 18 March.
Tickets to both games are now on sale through Ticketek. Click here or call 132 849.
With the retirement of club legends Nathan Hindmarsh and Luke Burt, Parramatta have lost nearly 600 games of experience. What they have lost in experience they have gained with the passion and insight of former NSW Origin coach Ricky Stuart.
The Eels, who conceded an average of 28 points per game last year, will look to improve under Stuart, whose teams are renowned for their defensive fortitude.
Promising new signings Darcy Lussick and Tim Robinson (from Manly) will bolster the Eels’ pack while an injury-free Jarryd Hayne is set to fire in attack. Eels halfback Chris Sandow will be one player to benefit from the tutelage of Stuart, who was one of the game’s great halfbacks himself.
They will face a stern test against 2012 Grand Finalists and minor premiers, the Bulldogs. After an incredible first year at the helm, master coach Des Hasler looks to remain the only man in nearly 20 years to guide a team to a premiership, having lost the grand final the year before.
The Bulldogs face the challenge of deciding when Ben Barba – 2012 Dally M winner and the most exciting player in the game – is fit to make his return.
Barba, 23, has been stood down by the club indefinitely while he battles personal issues.
The inclusion of giant forward Tony ‘T Rex’ Williams will further strengthen the Bulldogs’ already impressive go-forward. The NSW and Kangaroos representative was a revelation at former club Manly in 2011 and will further benefit having reunited with former mentor, Hasler.
The Rabbitohs kick-off their 2013 home campaign against the boys from the Shire – the Cronulla Sharks – in a Monday night (18 March) classic at Stadium Australia.
After one their most successful seasons in decades, Souths aim to go one better in 2013 and bring home their first premiership since 1971.
Coach Michael Maguire’s decision to move Greg Inglis to fullback in Round 4 last year proved to be stroke of genious. Inglis will be key in both attack and defence as the Rabbitohs enter this year as genuine premiership contenders.
The Rabbitohs welcome back Souths junior Beau Champion to the centres while halfback Adam Reynolds looks to build on the success of his debut NRL season which saw him claim the Dally M Rookie of the Year award.
New Sharks recruits Luke Lewis, Beau Ryan and Chris Heighington will join the likes of Paul Gallen, Todd Carney and a host of stars running onto Stadium Australia for the first time in 2013.
Get the scarves, flags and jerseys ready . . . footy’s back!