The 2021 NRL Draw has been released for Wests Tigers with plenty of talking points for Members, fans and stakeholders alike.
From facing last year's heavy hitters in the opening month to a raft of never-seen-before fixtures — including home games at Bankwest Stadium for Easter Monday and ANZAC Day — there's no shortage of matches to mark down in the calendar, so here's the five I'm most looking forward to in 2021...
Round 2 — Wests Tigers vs. Roosters
Sunday, 21st March, 4:05pm at Campbelltown Sports Stadium
While the season officially starts the week prior in GIO Stadium, Sunday's clash against the Sydney Roosters is the first home match for Wests Tigers — a fixture that traditionally attracts a strong crowd and plenty of interest. The Sunday afternoon timeslot is an obvious win for families (who will certainly have an eye on the upcoming school holidays) but it's also a big win for fans in general who will get to see their Wests Tigers in action against one of the competition heavyweights.
Number to know: In the opening month of the season, Wests Tigers have only hosted matches against the Sydney Roosters twice since 2001. In both of those games (Round 3, 2009 and Round 1, 2018), Wests Tigers emerged victorious.
And assuming he gets through Round 1 without injury or suspension, Round 2 is shaping up as Luke Brooks' 150th game for the club. Brooks will become just the 12th player in history to reach 150 games in Wests Tigers colours.
Match: Wests Tigers v Roosters
Round 2 -
Venue: Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Sydney
Round 4 — Wests Tigers vs. Eels
Monday, 5th April, 4:00pm at Bankwest Stadium
Having missed out on the chance to host the traditional Easter Monday clash against Parramatta, Wests Tigers will have the opportunity once again in 2021 — the first time the club will host the fixture at Bankwest Stadium. With all previous home games for the club taking place at ANZ Stadium, it's certainly an exciting clash between two teams in a fixture that always produces plenty of talking points! And with no other sport in town on the public holiday, what better thing to do than get to the footy and ensure Bankwest Stadium is decked out in Wests Tigers colours!
Number to know: The 2019 Easter Monday game at Bankwest Stadium (a Parramatta home game) attracted a crowd of 29,047. While that was a capacity crowd, it's also the lowest attendance between the two sides since the Easter Monday fixture was launched in 2014 with previous crowds all topping 30,000.
Match: Wests Tigers v Eels
Round 4 -
Venue: Stadium Australia, Sydney
Round 7 — Wests Tigers vs. Sea Eagles
Sunday, 25th April, 1:45pm at Bankwest Stadium
Not since 2004 have Wests Tigers played on ANZAC Day but the club is all set for another public holiday fixture at Bankwest Stadium in 2021. Remarkably, it was the Sea Eagles whom Wests Tigers faced off against back in 2004 and they'll meet again 17 years later as the hosts look to continue their good run of form. Wests Tigers have won five of their last six games against the Silvertails — including last year's incredible come-from-behind win in the final seconds.
Number to know: Unsurprisingly, not one player who featured back in the 2004 ANZAC Day game between these two sides is playing today... but there is still one familiar name on the team sheet. Manly Coach Des Hasler was remarkably in his first season with the Silvertails back in 2004 and will again take the reins in 2021.
Match: Wests Tigers v Sea Eagles
Round 7 -
Venue: Bankwest Stadium, Sydney
Round 16 — Wests Tigers vs. Rabbitohs
Sunday, 4th July, 4:05pm at Leichhardt Oval
A Sunday afternoon fixture at Leichhardt against arch rivals in South Sydney — you might want to sort out your Membership, hospitality and ticketing options pretty quickly for this one as it's shaping as a huge game on the calendar. With the representative round beforehand and a bye afterwards, this game is the only Wests Tigers game within a month so it's definitely not one to be missed! Wests Tigers haven't faced the Rabbitohs at the suburban venue since 2007 and, given the fiery contests the two sides played out in 2020, shouldn't be missed in 2021!
Number to know: Wests Tigers highest ever attendance at Leichhardt Oval came in this fixture in 2005 as the hosts defeated South Sydney 42-20. On that day, 22,877 fans packed the rafters and rooftops of the Inner West venue and while we might not see that number today with modifications made to the ground, it's definitely still shaping as being an incredibly strong and vociferous crowd there on the day!
Match: Wests Tigers v Rabbitohs
Round 16 -
Venue: Leichhardt Oval, Sydney
Round 23 — Wests Tigers vs. Sharks
Saturday, 21st August, 3:00pm at Scully Park
It's not the shortest trip for most Sydneysiders, but those that have made the venture up to Tamworth for the annual Scully Park know it's a journey worth taking. After missing out on the chance to return to the New England region in 2020, Wests Tigers will be back again in 2021 and there's always plenty of excitement in the local community in the buildup to the week. The 3:00pm Saturday timeslot is the perfect time for those travelling as well as those arriving from close by, while the game itself has a huge impact on the season with just two other regular season games after it. Take the Friday off work and make this a weekend you won't forget anytime soon.
Number to know: The Round 23 game is the only time Wests Tigers face Cronulla during the regular season... which is a bit of a trend. Wests Tigers haven't faced the Sharks twice in the same season since 2017 when Cronulla was defending premiers.
Match: Wests Tigers v Sharks
Round 23 -
Venue: Browne Park, Rockhampton