Dragons Draw Schedule Analysed
St George Illawarra Dragons
Play twice: Melbourne Storm, Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, Sydney Roosters, Brisbane Broncos, Newcastle Knights, Gold Coast Titans, South Sydney Rabbitohs, North Queensland Cowboys, Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
Play once: Penrith Panthers, New Zealand Warriors, Canberra Raiders, Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, Wests Tigers, Parramatta Eels.
Starting point: The Dragons kick off the season with back-to-back away games, first in Melbourne against the Storm on Monday night to round out the opening week of footy and then against rivals Cronulla at Shark Park the following Sunday.
A blockbuster against the Rabbitohs at the SCG will take place in Round 3, before Trent Merrin and the Panthers visit for the Red V's first game at WIN Stadium in Round 4.
Tough run: The Red V have arguably the toughest draw in the NRL in 2016, with home and away games against seven of last year's top eight teams.
At the start of April they have back-to-back games in Queensland against last year's grand finalists North Queensland and Brisbane, then face reigning minor premiers the Roosters a fortnight later.
Show-stoppers: The local derby with the Cronulla Sharks will resume in Round 2 at Shark Park, with the second clash between the sides taking place in the run home to the finals in Round 23 at Jubilee Oval.
There's no shortage of big games otherwise, with the clash with Souths at the SCG on March 20 sure to be a highlight. A run of three home games from Round 12 to 15 against the Cowboys, Bulldogs and Storm – two at WIN Stadium and one at ANZ – should keep the crowds turning up during the Origin period.
Origin impact: (Byes: Rd 13, Rd 18.) The Origin period will be kind to St George Illawarra, with a couple of big scalps up for the taking.
The Dragons will avoid Johnathan Thurston when they face the Cowboys in Round 12 ahead of State of Origin I, and then will get to play a Melbourne Storm side minus Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith in Round 15. The Dragons' byes coming in Round 13 and 18.