Warriors to play in world first cross-code day

Blues coach Leon MacDonald (L) and Warriors coach Stephen Kearney. Phil Walter/Getty Images

Rival codes Super Rugby and the NRL will join forces for what they claim is a world first double-header at Eden Park next year.

Canberra's two premier teams the Raiders and the Brumbies will take on their Auckland counterparts the Warriors and the Blues in the first cross-code event of its kind on March 21.

The double-header was announced on Tuesday when the NRL released its draw for the 2020 season.

The Warriors will host the Raiders for their round two NRL clash in the first game before the Blues host the ACT Brumbies in round eight of the Super Rugby season.

Warriors chief executive Cameron George and Blues chairman Don Mackinnon released a joint statement revealing the idea had been planned over months of negotiations.

"We have much in common as professional teams in international competition and we know that we have fans that follow both clubs," the statement said.

"Both clubs have worked together in recent years when the opportunity has arisen, and we have been trying to make this idea work for a couple of years.

"This year we trialled a single ticket promotion to both of our games on the same weekend and fans from both codes absolutely loved it.

"With both clubs playing Canberra teams on the same weekend, it was the perfect chance to give it a go."

It will be the Warriors' first home game of the NRL season.

Raiders chief executive Don Furner said the club was excited to be a part of the unique event with their Canberra code rivals.

"This history-making event is a chance for both codes to showcase their teams on the big stage and hopefully we see a Raiders and Brumbies double on the night," he said.

Canberra will have their most free-to-air television exposure this decade after being rewarded for their run to the grand final in the 2020 NRL draw.

The Raiders were given seven free-to-air games on the Nine Network, their most since the current broadcasting structure began in 2007.

It marks an increase on five regular season games from 2019 before they became the story of the NRL's finals.

It also comes after years of frustration at the Raiders for their commercial exposure, given they had as little as one game on free-to-air in 2013.

"Most of our sponsors are very loyal, they have been with us through the hard times," chief executive Don Furner said.

"They are very loyal. We've always only averaged two or three Channel Nine games a year.

"To get seven and possibly more is a reward for them.

"Moving forward we will get that reward commercially, because your sponsorship strip is worth more. Down the track we will capitalise on that."

The Raiders were the story of the draw announcement, with their grand final rematch against the Sydney Roosters to be played in Perth in round 11.

The bulk of the Raiders' free-to-air games will be played on Sunday afternoons, after the club requested to stay away from the freezing Thursday and Friday night home slots.

"I think that augers well for Canberra. I think they would be pretty happy with their draw," NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said.

"All I know is Canberra and Ricky Stuart will be hoping they have another year like they did last year."

Parramatta will open the season against Canterbury on March 12 at Bankwest Stadium, and have a golden start to the year with six games against bottom-eight sides from 2019 in the first two months.

Manly coach Des Hasler will return to Belmore in round 10 with a clash at his former club Canterbury's suburban ground.

The Bulldogs will later close ANZ Stadium before its redevelopment with a clash against South Sydney.

Allianz Stadium and Cronulla's Pointsbet Stadium are also out of action for the season, further muddying the process for the NRL after it began planning the draw in January.

"It's a really complex draw primarily around venue restrictions," Greenberg said.

"It limits where you can play those games, and add into that broadcaster selections and player workloads.

"Every year you get differences and difficulties, but I am very pleased with where we landed."

Meanwhile the NRL also lauded a slight reduction in five-day turnarounds for teams from 26 to 25, but well down on the high of 46 they reached in 2015.

Cronulla, Melbourne, Parramatta and South Sydney each have three five-day turnarounds, while Brisbane and the Gold Coast escape with none.

The grand final will return to the SCG on October 4, marking the 54th time it has been played at the venue and the first since 1987.

Official NRL 2020 season draw