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The Queensland Rugby Union (QRU) will take more National Rugby Championship (NRC) games to its clubs than ever before in 2017.
McInnes Wilson Lawyers Brisbane City and Bond University Queensland Country will continue to engage Queensland’s clubs as the NRC brings this exciting family-friendly form of the game closer to its natural fanbase.
Brisbane City’s regular season home games will take place at Ballymore, University of Queensland’s ground at St Lucia and West Rugby’s Sci-Fleet Stadium, while Queensland Country will play its home games at Bond University Rugby Club, Noosa Dolphins Rugby Club and North Ipswich Reserve.
The NRC, which runs from September 2 to November 11, will also break new ground in 2017 as Fiji enter the competition, looking to light up the tournament with their electrifying brand of Rugby.
The season kicks off on Saturday, September 2 with Queensland Country and Canberra Vikings doing battle at Viking Park, Canberra.
Hours later, two-time NRC Premiers Brisbane City will play an historic first NRC match against Fiji at the home of Rugby in Queensland - Ballymore.
Sam Cordingley, QRU’s GM of Professional Rugby, said: “We are keen to take more NRC games to our clubs this year. They do an outstanding job in developing players and coaches in Queensland. Now our clubs and fans have the opportunity to support our two teams in their own backyard."
Round 2 will also host the first country game, as Queensland Country run out in Noosa against arch rivals Brisbane City, in their annual clash for the Andy Purcell Cup.
The inclusion of Fiji is not the only change to the competition, with the Vikings now under the direction of the Canberra-based Vikings Group and the Greater Sydney Rams under the direction of Eastwood Rugby Club management.
These off-season developments will add extra spice to the bourgeoning competition which grew significantly last year, recording a 65% increase in overall viewership and 10% increase in crowd attendance.
True to the family-friendly approach of the competition, many NRC fixtures have been scheduled to align with local community Rugby events. It means sports fans around the country will have more opportunities than ever before to watch the nation’s best Rugby players in their own backyard, with Wallaby squad members expected to be released for NRC duty during The Rugby Championship to play alongside some of the nation’s rising club rugby stars.
The Fijians will host their first match in Round 3, with the island nation set to converge on Lawaqa Park in the Rugby-mad city of Sigatoka, to clash with NSW Country Eagles.
The Pasifika Round will return in 2017 on the weekend of the 7/8 October (Round 6), where all teams will pay tribute to the significant role that Pasifika communities play in Australian rugby.
Following last year’s popular format, most matches will be played at 1.00pm AEST or 3.00pm AEST on Saturdays and Sundays again in 2017, making NRC fixtures the perfect weekend outing for family and friends.
The fast-paced, competitive and high-scoring encounters synonymous with the competition are set to continue, following a 2016 season where an average of 9.7 tries were scored per match.
Ben Whitaker, ARU General Manager of High Performance said: “The NRC continues to grow and with the inclusion of Fiji the 2017 season will have an international flavour with flair which will boost the appeal of the competition for fans even further.
“The quality of Rugby has improved dramatically from year to year and it is bound to go up another notch as the NRC enters its fourth season.
“Importantly, the NRC has proven to be a successful platform for player and coach development with graduation into Super Rugby positions at its highest in 2016. Both the players and coaches have overwhelmingly backed the competition, as have the fans, who watched the NRC in record numbers last season.”
FOX SPORTS will broadcast two games each round on television (Saturday and Sunday at 3pm AEST) with the two remaining games available to stream LIVE via foxsports.com.au and the FOX SPORTS App. Fans will be able to watch every NRC match LIVE and ad-break free during play for the second season in succession.
Head to rugby.com.au for the full 2017 National Rugby Championship draw.
Note: Match timings are accurate at the time of publishing but are subject to change.
19 JANUARY 2018