Eels and Broncos to kick off NRL return

Scott Bailey and Pamela Whaley
The NRL competition will resume on May 28 with the Broncos at home to the Eels

The NRL has avoided a massive headache by not scheduling any teams with non-vaccinated players for matches in Queensland in the opening two rounds.

Under a reworked draw announced on Friday, Brisbane will kick off the NRL's return on a Thursday night when they host Parramatta on May 28 to start round three.

South Sydney will clash with arch-rivals Sydney Roosters on Friday, as another highlight in the schedule which only included rounds three and four.

Games will be played in NSW and Queensland, with the NRL still to determine what venues will be used.

Crucially though, none of Canberra, Manly or Canterbury are drawn to play away matches against Queensland teams in the opening fortnight.

Penrith also have both their games in Sydney, after not disclosing to the media whether all their players had been vaccinated.

Had they been set to travel to Queensland it would have caused a political storm given that state government will not allow players to take to the field without the flu jab unless they have a medical exemption.

When asked if this was a deliberate move to avoid conflict between clubs and governments, interim NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said the draw took precedence.

"Prioritisation was given to ultimately maximising big blockbuster games for our fans," he said on Friday.

However, with a full schedule due to be released on Thursday, it is a problem the NRL may need to deal with sooner rather than later.

Abdo confirmed the NRL will stand by the Queensland government's decision.

"We have always said we will respect the government protocols and restrictions," he said.

"At this point in time, the Queensland government requires all players to be vaccinated or have a medical exemption.

"We will respect that and we'll continue to work with them and if that policy changes, then we'll be able to adapt to that."

The NRL is also expected to finalise venues next week as they work through site inspections to ensure stadiums can meet biosecurity standards.

Under the revised draw, there will be no Monday night football between Parramatta and Wests Tigers in round three as had previously been expected.

The Tigers will instead face Cronulla on the Saturday night, while the Warriors clash with the Dragons and Melbourne feature in a blockbuster against Canberra the same night.

Penrith play Newcastle and Manly face off against Canterbury on the Sunday.

There will be no double-headers on the schedule, while no venue will host more than one game a day.

Dates for State of Origin, to be played at the end of the season, will also be announced next week.