sourced from NRL.com
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The National Rugby League will kick off the game's Centenary season on March 14, 2008 with an opening round that features matches in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
Round one sees the Eels against the Bulldogs, the Rabbitohs against the Roosters, Wests Tigers against the Dragons, the Sea Eagles against the Sharks, the Storm against the Warriors, the Knights against the Raiders, the Broncos against the Panthers and the Titans, in their first premiership game at the new Skilled Park, against the Cowboys.
The 2008 Telstra Premiership Draw released today will give fans the chance to celebrate the game's Centenary milestones while also focusing on what promises to be one of the most gripping premiership races in history.
Melbourne's bid for a second straight Premiership and a third consecutive Minor Premiership will face challenges from every quarter in a new look draw that introduces an extra 'bye' and increases the number of local derbies and marquee matches.
All Queensland teams will play each other twice and there has been an increase in the number of times Sydney teams will play each other in the same year.
One of the highlight rounds of the competition comes in Round 6 (April 18-21) as the game celebrates exactly 100 years since the first Premiership round in 1908.
The Heritage Round sees teams play in their 'traditional' strips as they are matched as closely as possible on the basis of the year their district first entered the premiership.
The round sees Wests Tigers v Souths; Roosters v Knights; Parramatta v Manly; Cowboys v Warriors; Bulldogs v Dragons; Cronulla v Penrith; Broncos v Titans; Raiders v Storm. The weekend will include a relay from Birchgrove Oval (one of the sites of the first games on April 20) to the Sydney Cricket Ground.
The 2008 draw sees City v Country played as part of Round 8 (May 2-4), while State of Origin will be played on May 21 (Telstra Stadium), June 11 (Suncorp Stadium) and July 2 (Telstra Stadium).
May 9 sees the Centenary Test between Australia and New Zealand, a match that will be played at the SCG 100 years to the day since New Zealand defeated Australia 11-10 in the first trans-Tasman Test.
It also caters for the annual ANZAC Day match on April 25 as well as a number of key requests by clubs to stage marquee matches including all three Queensland teams playing in Queensland during Round 3 to celebrate the Centenary of the formation of the Queensland league; the Bulldogs v the Roosters in Round 4 celebrating 70 years since their first Grand Final and the Roosters v Souths celebrating the first ever Premiership decider in Round 25 (won by Souths).
"There are games right through the draw that you just know you are going to want to be there to see," NRL Chief Executive, Mr David Gallop, said today.
"It's going to be a special season for many reasons and we've ensured the draw highlights the game's Centenary milestones, but it's the week in and week out contests in a close competition that will drive fans to the games.
"There isn't a team in the competition that won't go into 2008 without believing it can make the finals and there are millions of fans who are wishing their campaign would start next week instead of March 14."
The 2008 draw again delivers each club 12 home games and 12 away games but this time with two byes over 26 weeks.
Every team plays each other once to make up 15 of the 24 games.
The key change in 2008 is a move away from the previous 'pool system' that was used to determine the remaining nine matches.
Each club this year was asked to nominate the teams it would most want to play to attract the most fans, based on either traditional rivalry or on the basis of maximising attendance.
The draw has met at least the top four requests of each club and at least six of their top seven. In previous years these matches were determined on the basis of pools based solely on the finishing positions of the previous year.
"The new system should give fans a chance to see the matches they most want to see," NRL Chief Operating Officer, Mr Graham Annesley, said today.
"It's the first year we have tried this system and we've been able to meet the top choices of each club as well as cater for a large number of Centenary events."[/b]