The new Super League season will open with a blockbuster match on Friday 7 February, when Wigan will face Huddersfield Giants in a clash between the Champions and the holders of the League Leaders’ Shield at the DW Stadium.
It will be the only game played that weekend, and its stature will be enhanced by being a standalone fixture. It should also give Wigan fans the chance to see their new signing Matty Bowen, who will replace the departed Sam Tomkins at fullback.
Wigan will then fly off to Australia to face the Sydney Roosters in the World Club Challenge at Allianz Stadium, formerly known as the Sydney Football Stadium, which is the Roosters’ home ground.
That game is likely to be played on Saturday 22 February, and we won’t see Wigan back in this country until they face Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in Round 3 on Sunday 2 March.
The other key factor about the new fixture list is the switch by Sky Sports to broadcasting Thursday night matches. Sky experimented with Thursday nights during the latter part of the 2013 season, and they obviously liked how their viewers received those games.
In 2014 the Thursday televised matches will begin with Warrington v St Helens in Round 1 and will continue most weeks right through to Round 27, when Wigan will play Warrington at the DW Stadium on Thursday 11 September.
The first Thursday night blockbuster, which will probably be played in front of a full house, is the clash between Warrington and Wigan at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in Round 6 on 20 March.
Whether or not you like the prospect of Thursday night matches, the new fixture list at least gives us plenty of advance warning about the games that will be played on Thursdays.
And London Broncos will feature in two of those Thursday night matches, which will be a relief for their supporters, who must have thought that the Broncos may not even get to the starting gate for the 2014 season.
The Broncos will play at home to Castleford Tigers in Round 7 on Thursday 27 March, giving us all the chance to view what they hope will be their new home stadium at The Hive in the London Borough of Harrow.
Let’s hope that by the time the season begins the Broncos will have completed their negotiations to move into a new home.
The Magic Weekend will be on 17 and 18 May, and the Tetley’s Challenge Cup Final will be held on Saturday 23 August, while the semi-finals will be just two weeks earlier, giving the RFL and the clubs very little time to sell Cup Final tickets to the fans of the two teams that will figure in the Final.
The Grand Final in 2011 will take place on Saturday 11 October at Old Trafford.
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