The Parramatta Eels have been handed a nightmare draw for the second straight year. The NRL announced the full fixture list for the 2024 season on Monday with the Sharks the biggest winners, facing this year's top eight the fewest times.
Parramatta, however, were not so lucky, with 13 games against the top eight from 2023, the equal most with South Sydney. They also must face five teams straight off the bye the previous week.
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The Eels will also play all of last season's top five twice, while only meeting two of the bottom four clubs from last year two times. It is another slap in the face for the club and fans after enduring a tough start to the 2023 season which saw them 0-3 to start the season.
The Ladies Who League Twitter account was one of the first to criticise the Eels draw. “Forget the toughness of the draw - I get it. But this I genuinely do not get. No team should have to deal with this,” the account wrote on X.
Forget the toughness of the draw - I get it. But this I genuinely do not get. No team should have to deal with this. https://t.co/CbUartF9Ce
— LadiesWhoLeague (@LadiesWhoLeague) November 13, 2023
Last year's NRL draw was also subject to harsh criticism with Matty Johns saying the Eels draw was a "complete oversight" by the NRL. “I’ll say this about the Eels,” he said on The Late Show with Matty Johns. "This has been a complete oversight as far as the draw’s concerned. Tonight they play Manly coming off a bye, next week they play Penrith coming off a bye, the week after they play the Roosters coming off a bye.
"That shouldn’t happen. You’ve got a side like Penrith now who are going to sit, and have a two-week preparation to freshen up to play. The bottom line, it should not happen.”
It’s getting hard not to get the tin foil hat out. They seem to get dudded every year.
— Shane (@boostar83) November 13, 2023
NRL hate us can be the only explanation.
What I would give to get a easy draw like Cronulla, North Qld etc.
— Kit Walker (@KitWalker021475) November 13, 2023
gets worse. 5 clear favs heading into season, Eels play every single one of them TWICE!
— Chris Ryan (@imdabomb82) November 13, 2023
During the origin period I can see where it happens but 3 out of their final 4 games?? Come on man
— V (@TicsVitsJacThic) November 13, 2023
Ahh the #nrl draw is out. Let the whinging commence
— 24 Sep 1989 (@Raiders_24Sep89) November 13, 2023
A lot of carry on around the NRL draw !! Its never been fair or equal so get over it !! The odd occasion over 20yrs a team misses the 8 to a team with a soft draw , thenm tesms dont go on and strike a blow in the semis
— Steve ( not Jason ) Kidd (@kid11y) November 13, 2023
NRL draw winners and losers
The biggest winner from the 2024 draw is arguably Cronulla, who have been handed what is theoretically the easiest schedule of all 17 clubs. After bowing out of the first week of the finals this year Craig Fitzgibbon's side only face nine games against 2023's top-eight teams, the lowest of any club in the draw.
The Sharks only play one side from last season's top four twice and face all of the bottom four from 2023 two times. Parramatta and Souths have been handed a rough path back to the finals after last season's disappointments, with 13 games against the top eight from 2023, with Storm facing the next most treacherous run, playing 12 of a possible 14 games against the 2023 finalists.
Newcastle, meanwhile, have walked away as the biggest winners on the commercial front. On the back of 2023's Kalyn Ponga mania, the Knights have increased from seven free-to-air games last season to 12 in 2024. South Sydney has also ended Brisbane's long-standing run as the game's most watchable team, claiming 14 free-to-air games to Brisbane's 13.
The NRL season will kickstart a new era when Manly and South Sydney kick off the year in a Las Vegas doubleheader on March 2. Matches this season will also be played in Christchurch, Bundaberg and Darwin, while the Perth double-header has become a single fixture after the Rabbitohs pulled out.
The grand final will be held on October 6, with both the men's and women's competitions to be decided in back-to-back games. The Warriors will also host a game on Anzac Day in New Zealand for the first time since 2015, with Gold Coast to travel to Auckland.
Key dates for 2024 NRL season:
March 2: Las Vegas season opener (Manly v South Sydney, Sydney Roosters v Brisbane)
March 21: Penrith v Brisbane (grand-final rematch in round three)
May 16: Women's State of Origin I, Suncorp Stadium
May 17-19: Magic Round, Suncorp Stadium
June 5: Men's State of Origin I, Accor Stadium
June 6: Women's State of Origin II, Newcastle
June 26: Men's State of Origin II, MCG
June 27: Women's State of Origin III, Townsville
July 17: Men's State of Origin III, Suncorp Stadium
October 6: NRL and NRLW grand finals
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