South Sydney and Canterbury will host a historic double-header at the new Perth stadium in round one of the 2018 season, sparking renewed debate in the prospect of the NRL expanding west.
In an undeniable win for the NRL over rival footy codes, the opening round double-header on March 10 of next season will be the first rectangular sport to compete at the soon-to-be completed 60,000-seat Perth stadium.
Upon completion early next year, the state of the art stadium will be the third-largest stadium in Australia, behind only the MCG and ANZ Stadium.
Both the Rabbitohs and the Bulldogs will be the host NRL teams for the first Saturday of the 2018 season, with the NRL yet to confirm their opponents.
The selection of the Bulldogs to be part of the historic double-header means that high-profile recruits Aaron Woods and Kieran Foran’s first official match for the club will be in the west.
So too South Sydney’s outstanding signing of Dane Gagai, who will play his final match for Newcastle this Sunday.
NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg described confirmation of the double-header for fans both here and abroad, as “incredible.’’
“This will be a spectacular way to help kick off the new NRL season — a Saturday double-header at a brand new stadium in Perth,” Greenberg said.
“Fans will get two premiership matches in a blockbuster event at incredible value.
“I’d like to thank both the Government of Western Australia and Tourism WA for their strong desire to showcase rugby league on this stage, as well as the two clubs for embracing the concept.”
The announcement of the 2018 WA double-header as well as a World Cup double-header later this year and Perth Stadium for a State of Origin match in 2019, indicates the NRL are seriously exploring the possibility of expanding west for the first time in 20-years with the major events set be used a barometer for fan interest and local corporate support.
To date, the NRL have held off expanding west in the wake of the quick demise of the Western Reds, which lasted just three seasons when entering the ARL competition in 1995.
The WA government believes the 2018 double-header will contribute $2m to the local economy and that’s before the opponents for the Bulldogs and Rabbitohs are confirmed later in the year, once the 2018 draw is finalised.
“NRL continues to grow in popularity in Perth and we expect this double-header, in Round One of the 2018 NRL premiership season, to be extremely popular,’’ WA Sports minister Mick Murray said.
The NRL are intent on also making the double-header cost effective with tickets, which go on sale today, set to be priced at $20 for adults and $50 for families.
The early release of tickets also coincides with the opportunity for Bulldogs, Rabbioths and local Perth league fans to organise their travel arrangements.
The new Perth Stadium is still under construction.
How the stadium will look amid the backdrop of Perth.