The Women’s State of Origin will be expanded to a full three-match series in 2024 as full details of the NRL and NRLW fixtures for the upcoming season are revealed.
- Women’s State of Origin begins May 16 as Magic Round opener
- Cronulla will only play nine games against the 2023 NRL finalists next season
- The men’s and women’s grand finals will be played on October 6
Cronulla have become the biggest winners of the 2024 NRL draw, with what is theoretically the easiest schedule of the 17 clubs.
The NRL announced its fixtures for 2024 on Monday, heralding a new era for the game with Manly and South Sydney kicking off in a doubleheader in Las Vegas on March 2.
Matches will also be played in Christchurch, Bundaberg and Darwin, while the Perth double-header became a one-off after the Rabbitohs withdrew.
The grand final will take place on October 6 and the event will once again include deciders for both the men’s and women’s competitions.
Meanwhile, the women’s State of Origin was expanded, in line with the men’s series, to three matches.
The series opener will be played at Lang Park on May 16 in Thursday’s Magic Round match, before matches at Newcastle and Townsville on June 6 and 20 respectively.
The Warriors and Storm will not play on Anzac Day, which has been a marquee game on the calendar in recent years.
This year, the Warriors will also host an Anzac Day match in New Zealand for the first time since 2015, against the Gold Coast Titans.
The Storm will host South Sydney on Anzac Day in place of the New Zealand team.
But it is the Sharks who should leave the happiest on Monday, after having withdrawn in the first week of the final this year.
Craig Fitzgibbon’s men have played just nine games against the top eight teams of 2023, the lowest of any club in the draw.
They also only face the Warriors twice in last season’s top four, while playing the 2023 bottom four twice.
On the other hand, Melbourne had the most difficult journey.
Craig Bellamy’s perfect first round record will face its sternest test against Penrith on March 8.
And in what appears to be potentially the coach’s final season at the helm of the team, the Storm will face just one team from outside last season’s bottom nine in the first eight rounds.
Melbourne also played every other team in last season’s top four twice, while playing 12 of a possible 14 games against the 2023 finalists.
Parramatta and Souths also had a difficult path to the finals after last season’s disappointments, with 13 games against the top eight starting in 2023.
Worse still for the Eels, there is a strange feeling of déjà vu.
After winning three straight matches against new clubs at the start of 2023, Parramatta will have the most ties next year with five across the whole of 2024.
Clubs such as Manly and St George Illawarra have no such clashes.
The Sea Eagles also don’t have a five-day turnaround, while the Eels are one of six clubs with three spread across the season.
Newcastle, meanwhile, emerged as the biggest winners commercially.
As a result of the Kalyn Ponga madness of 2023, the Knights went from seven free games last season to 12 in 2024.
South Sydney has the most matches broadcast free-to-air in 2024 with 14 matches, followed by the Brisbane Broncos with 13.