Reynolds’ Broncos in line to square off against Rabbitohs in 2022 season openerAdam Reynolds’ Broncos against his beloved South Sydney Rabbitohs. That’s the mouth-watering glamour club showdown the NRL is considering to launch next year’s season.
The NRL has been working on the 2022 draw for the past few weeks, with plans to kick off next season on March 10.
The NRL has traditionally opened the season with a blockbuster round one clash. It doesn’t get much bigger than Reynolds, a South Sydney junior, squaring off against the club that wouldn’t budge in negotiations to keep him.
If played at Stadium Australia in Sydney, it would also double as an opportunity for the Rabbitohs to pay tribute to and farewell Reynolds, who hasn’t played in front of the South Sydney faithful since the middle of the season.
Adding spice to the contest will also be the expected addition of Broncos five-eighth Anthony Milford to the South Sydney side coached by Jason Demetriou - a former assistant to Wayne Bennett at the Broncos.
The two clubs are arguably the highest-rating teams on free-to-air television, with at least one of the two sides featuring on opening night in eight of the past nine seasons.
Under the agreement with the broadcasters, the governing body is committed to finishing the schedule by the last day of October.
The structure being worked on now is almost identical to this year, with a 25-round regular season.
Despite speculation the NRL would abandon the Sunday night standalone Origin game for the second game of the series, Rugby League Central is forging ahead with plans to keep it the same.
That may change if a free-to-air deal is struck in the coming weeks, with Nine keen to see Origin return to Wednesdays for all three games because of a hit to the ratings on Sunday nights.
Things will heat up between the NRL and Nine, the publisher of this masthead, in the next few weeks over the free-to-air broadcast rights.
There had been talk Nine were considering dropping Thursday night footy to save some money, however they look set to continue with three games a round.
The significant increase in television ratings for the finals series puts the NRL in a strong position as they head to the negotiation table.
Michael Chammas: Adam Reynolds and Brisbane Broncos line up South Sydney Rabbitohs 2022 season opener (smh.com.au)