6th November 2018, 11:00 | super_league
Wigan Warriors will launch their defence of the Betfred Super League title at the home of their fierce rivals St Helens in a Thursday night blockbuster opening to the 2019 season.
The clash between the 2018 Grand Final winners and a Saints team who earned the League Leaders’ Shield will be the first live match on Sky Sports in 2019 – and it will be followed on Friday night by another of the game’s classic derbies, between Hull KR and Hull FC at KCOM Craven Park.
That will be one of three Friday night fixtures, and the bumper opening weekend continues with the meeting of last season’s beaten Grand Finalists, Warrington Wolves, and the Leeds Rhinos at the Halliwell Jones Stadium on Saturday February 2 – a third live televised match of the weekend, a pattern which continues well into March.
That leaves the stage clear on Sunday afternoon for the Super League’s return to London, as the Broncos face Chris Chester’s Wakefield Trinity at their Ealing Trailfinders base.
In Round Two, Sky will screen Hull FC-Castleford Tigers on Thursday night, Wigan’s first home game against Leeds on Friday, and the Catalans-Huddersfield clash from Perpignan on Saturday.
Then, after Wigan face Sydney Roosters in the World Club Challenge on February 17, the third full round of Betfred Super League fixtures sees another triple-header on Sky Sports – Wakefield hosting Catalans on Thursday 21, the first St Helens versus Leeds fixture of the season on Friday 22, and a first televised match of the season for the Broncos at home to Castleford on Saturday 23.
Wigan face Saints again, this time on home territory at the DW Stadium, on their traditional Good Friday date, which this year falls on April 19 – when other televised derby fixtures, between Hull FC and Hull KR at the KCOM Stadium, and Wakefield’s short trip to Castleford, set up the possibility of a challenge to Super League’s record aggregate attendance for a round of six matches.
The Dacia Magic Weekend will be played on the second Bank Holiday weekend in May (Round 16) with fixtures and the venue for the 2019 festival to be confirmed next week.
Each team will play 29 fixtures – 14 at home and 14 away, plus the Magic round – meaning they play seven of the other 11 teams three times, and the other four twice. That fixture pattern has been determined by the teams’ finishing positions in 2018.
Old Trafford will stage the 22nd Grand Final on Saturday October 12, the culmination of a return to the Top Five Play-Offs which produced the original Grand Final in 1998 – when Jason Robinson’s famous try set up Wigan’s 10-4 win against Leeds.
That means the winners of the League Leaders’ Shield could take a direct passage to Old Trafford with victory in a single home match in the second round of the Play-Offs – whereas the team finishing fifth would have to win three away matches to make the Grand Final.
Robert Elstone, the chief executive of Super League Europe, said: “The 2019 season will mark a change of direction for the Super League, and the start of exciting new beginnings.
“We want our fans to be really excited about that first weekend, and how better to do that than with a Saints-Wigan derby, pitting the champions against their local rivals who were also last year’s League Leaders? And then to follow it up with a Hull derby?
“We’re equally excited about the extra Saturday games which our broadcast partners at Sky Sports are showing in the early stages of the season, allowing the drama of the opening round of matches to unfold throughout the weekend.
“Throw in the World Club Challenge between Wigan Warriors and the Sydney Roosters, the unique appeal and challenge of Super League’s Easter weekend – and of course the season builds to a real climax with the battle for places in the Top Five Play-Offs, building to the Betfred Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford.”
Find the fixtures in full at http://www.rugby-league.com/superleague/fixtures