Eight quality teams going head-to-head at family-friendly times each Saturday and Sunday – the 2016 Buildcorp National Rugby Championship will be more watchable, accessible and competitive than ever before.
This year’s competition will feature the Sydney Rays, Perth Spirit, Brisbane City, Western Sydney Rams, Melbourne Rising, Queensland Country, UC Vikings and NSW Country Eagles.
Tries will be worth six points and two matches will feature on FOX SPORTS in the newest incarnation of the National Rugby Championship (NRC). The NRC has done away with Thursday night matches, in the fixture announced on Wednesday, instead shifting to more family-friendly weekend afternoon times, with two matches to be broadcast on FOX SPORTS, in what is a major boon for the competition.
There will be more rule changes in the state-based competition this season, as well, with tries worth six points this season and any form of goal all worth two points, shifting from previous years where tries were worth five, conversions three and penalties two.
Back-to-back champions Brisbane City will start their title defence in Sydney against NSW Country on August 27, as they bid to continue a 18-match winning run that dates back to September 6, 2014.
There are just three NSW sides in the competition this season, with the departure of the Sydney Stars from the competition, with the North harbour Rays becoming the Sydney Rays and Greater Sydney Rams now the Western Sydney Rams.
2015 runners-up the UC Vikings will take on QLD Country on the Gold Coast to kick off their year, while Perth Spirit and Melbourne Rising face off in Perth, with the Sydney Rays and Western Sydney Rams playing off in the opening round.
The Rams already have a major on-field drawcard, with the recent signing of former NRL star Kevin Locke to their roster.
NSW Country and Queensland Country will take games away from big cities, with matches in Tamworth and Toowoomba, respectively, in the same vein as the first two seasons.
The NRC has given some rising talent a place to shine in what used to be somewhat of a lay period for Super Rugby players, with only Test rugby occupying the space.
Players including Samu Kerevi (Brisbane City) and Jono Lance (NSW Country) have flourished in the NRC in recent years, helping their own Super Rugby progression.
ARU High Performance manager Ben Whitaker said the competition was continually evolving.
“We’re confident that with the confirmation of eight teams, and the learning off the back of the first two seasons the overall quality of the National Rugby Championship product will improve in 2016 as the competition will be stronger and more competitive,” he said.
“Last year there were on average more than nine tries scored per match, and with the 2016 games being played mostly on weekend afternoons at a variety of regional and metropolitan grounds, more fans than ever before will have a chance to enjoy the thrill of the NRC.”
2016 NRC fixture (bold = televised matches)
Perth Spirit vs Melbourne Rising, UWA Sports Park, Perth – Sat August 27, 11am
NSW Country Eagles vs Brisbane City, Sydney University – Sat August 27, 3pm
Sydney Rays vs Western Sydney Rams, North Sydney Oval – Sun August 28, 1pm
Queensland Country vs Canberra Vikings, Bond University – Sun August 28, 3pm
Sydney Rays vs Perth Spirit, North Sydney Oval – Fri September 1, 7:30pm
Brisbane City vs Western Sydney Rams, Ballymore Stadium -Sat September 3, 3pm
Melbourne rising vs Queensland Country, Melbourne University Oval – Sun September 4, 1pm
UC Vikings vs NSW Country Eagles, Viking Park – Sun September 4, 3pm
Western Sydney Rams vs Perth Spirit, Concord Oval – Sat September 10, 1pm
Queensland Country vs Sydney Rays, Bond University – Sat September 10, 3pm
Brisbane City vs UC Vikings, Ballymore – Sun September 11, 1pm
NSW Country Eagles vs Melbourne Rising, Tamworth – Sun September 11, 3pm
Sydney Rays vs NSW Country Eagles, Pittwater Rugby Park – Sat September 17, 1pm
Melbourne Rising vs Brisbane City, Harlequins Oval – Sat September 17, 3pm
UC Vikings vs Western Sydney Rams, Viking Park – Sun September 18, 1pm
Perth Spirit vs Queensland Country, UWA Sports Park – Sun September 18, 1pm
NSW Country Eagles vs Perth Spirit, Endeavour Oval, Orange – Sat September 24, 1pm
Western Sydney Rams vs QLD Country, Concord Oval – Sat September 24, 3pm
UC Vikings vs Melbourne Rising, Viking Park – Sun September 25, 1pm
Brisbane City vs Sydney Rays, Ballymore Stadium – Sun September 25, 3pm
Queensland Country vs NSW Country Eagles, Cliver Berghofer Stadium – Sat October 1, 1pm
Sydney Rays vs Canberra Vikings, Pittwater Rugby Park – Sat October 1, 3pm
Perth Spirit vs Brisbane City, UWA Sports Park – Sun October 2, 2pm
Melbourne Rising vs Western Sydney Rams, Harlequins Oval – Sun October 2, 3pm
Western Sydney Rams vs NSW Country Eagles, Concord Oval – Sat October 8, 1pm
UC Vikings vs Perth Spirit, Viking Park – Sat October 8, 3pm
Melbourne Rising vs Sydney Rays, Frankston Oval – Sun October 9, 1pm
Brisbane City vs Queensland Country, Ballymore Stadium – Sun October 9, 2pm
Weekend of October 15
Weekend of October 22
Head to rugby.com.au for the full 2016 Buildcorp National Rugby Championship draw