Waiting game ... Bulldogs fans will have their chance to welcome Sonny Bill Williams in round 15. Photo: Craig Golding
CANTERBURY fans will have to wait until round 15 for Sonny Bill Williams to return to ANZ Stadium against the club he walked out on in 2008. Williams, whose return to the NRL next season is expected to draw big crowds wherever he plays with Sydney Roosters, will also face his former club in round six at Allianz Stadium.
The Bulldogs-Roosters clashes are two of the highlights of the 2013 draw to be officially announced on Friday. Channel Nine is also banking on Williams being fit for the season opener against South Sydney at Allianz Stadium on Thursday, March 7.
Other round one matches include:
Brisbane v Manly at Suncorp Stadium on Friday, March 8;
Parramatta v Warriors at Parramatta Stadium on Saturday, March 9, and;
Melbourne v St George Illawarra at AAMI Park on Sunday, March 10.
The Storm will also host a grand final replay against the Bulldogs in round three.
The draw, the first the NRL has released for the opening 20 rounds, features 12 Sunday night matches. Among them are Manly v Newcastle at Brookvale Oval in round two and Canberra v St George Illawarra at Canberra Stadium in round three.
With the Broncos playing Manly in the opening round, their derby match against the Cowboys that has traditionally opened the season in Queensland will be played in round six.
Another potential grudge match, Wests Tigers' first clash with Cronulla since the Sharks poached Beau Ryan and Chris Heighington, will be played in round nine. Penrith and Gold Coast travel to Darwin in round 17.