It’s not even 2018 yet but next season is already shaping up as a beauty.
Dramatic news this week makes several tantalising matches even juicier.
Here are the ten games you can’t miss in 2018.
Wests Tigers v Sydney Roosters
ANZ Stadium, Round 1
Saturday, 10 March, 4:30pm
All eyes will be on James Tedesco as he faces his old side in his debut match for the Sydney Roosters. Wests Tigers fans won’t be pleased about seeing a familiar face take the next big step in the NRL in different colours. It will also be Cooper Cronk’s eagerly anticipated debut and fans can get their first taste of the Roosters new all-star studded lineup.
Brisbane Broncos v North Queensland Cowboys
Suncorp Stadium, Round 2
Friday, 16 March, 7:50pm
With 50,000 passionate fans on Friday night at Suncorp, it doesn’t get much bigger or better in the NRL whenever these two teams meet in the Queensland derby. It’s an unforgettable affair when the Broncos and Cowboys clash. Who could ever forget the 2015 premiership decider or other last-minute thrillers? Four of their past five encounters have been decided by one point – the other was by an extra-time try in the 2016 semi-final.
Melbourne Storm v North Queensland Cowboys
AAMI Park, Round 3
Thursday, 22 March, 7:50pm
The Cowboys will be determined to show they are better than what they offered in the grand final. With a fully fit and firing Johnathan Thurston in the halves with Michael Morgan, this is their chance to get one back early on the reigning premiers.
Cronulla Sharks v Melbourne Storm
Southern Cross Group Stadium, Round 4
Friday, 30 March, 7:50pm
It’s no secret that the past two premiers fiercely dislike each other. The Storm may have avenged their bitter 2016 grand final loss to the Sharks by winning this year’s premiership but it will always remain as the one that got away from them. In an early season encounter, both sides will be motivated to gain a significant psychological advantage over their adversary.
Sydney Roosters v South Sydney Rabbitohs
Allianz Stadium, Round 6
Thursday, 12 April, 7:50pm
Rugby league’s oldest rivalry resumes in a blockbuster all-star match-up. After a wild offseason, it’s premiership or bust for the Roosters but the Rabbitohs will be desperate to bounce back in 2018 with a rejuvenated Greg Inglis and prized recruit Dane Gagai.
Cronulla Sharks v St George Illawarra Dragons
WIN Stadium, Round 6
Friday, 13 April, 7:50pm
It’s always an intense stoush between the local rivals and with two matches within a month – Round 2 (Southern Cross Group Stadium) and Round 6 – there will be plenty of feeling. Josh Dugan plays in front of Dragons fans for the first time since his defection and they won’t be shy to let their feelings known at Wollongong.
St George Illawarra Dragons v Sydney Roosters and Melbourne Storm v New Zealand Warriors
Round 8, Wednesday, 25 April
It’s double the action in the annual Anzac Day doubleheader. Every year seems to provide another classic instalment that has become part of the rugby league calendar. With Cooper Cronk, James Tedesco and Englishman James Graham taking part, it will certainly be a passionate affair.
Wests Tigers v Canterbury Bulldogs
ANZ Stadium, Round 12
Sunday, 27 May, 4:10pm
It’s the NRL’s version of "Wife Swap" as Josh Reynolds and Aaron Woods face their old clubs for the first time. While local Canterbury junior Reynolds will receive plenty of love from Bulldogs fans, Woods can expect more jeers and disdain that he already copped from Wests Tigers fans last season when he announced his departure.
Cronulla Sharks v Brisbane Broncos
Southern Cross Group Stadium, Round 15
Saturday, 16 June, 7:30pm
With Wayne Bennett blasting the Cronulla Sharks today, accusing them of neglectfully handling prized-recruit Jack Bird’s shoulder injury – that will result in him missing the opening month of the Brisbane Broncos’ campaign – it will certainly be an intense affair when the two sides meet. How will Sharks fans receive Bird spurred the side to win their first premiership?
Melbourne Storm v Sydney Roosters
Allianz Stadium, Round 16
Friday, 29 June, 7:50pm
It doesn’t get any stranger than this. Just five days after the “Big Three” reunite for the Queensland Maroons in the State of Origin, Cooper Cronk will go head-to-head against Billy Slater and Cameron Smith for the first time. Who knows what to expect what is sure to an emotional and action-packed clash between two of the NRL’s heaviest premiership contenders.