Back-to-back home games against the Roosters and Knights will be first up for the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys when they kick off their quest for the 2015 Telstra Premiership.
In the eagerly awaited NRL draw released today, the Cowboys will start their 20th anniversary season with a rematch against the team that eliminated them from last year’s finals race in arguably the best match of 2014 – a 31-30 thriller at Allianz Stadium that featured a massive North Queensland comeback.
The round one clash will be played on Saturday night, 7 March, kicking off at 8pm (local time), and is sure to be one of the blockbuster matches of the 2015 season as the Cowboys celebrate 20 years in the game’s premier competition.
With just 81 days until kick off, Cowboys members and fans can now plan for the first 20 of the 26 regular rounds of the 2015 season that will culminate in the grand final on Sunday 4 October.
The fixed schedule includes other home matches against Melbourne, NZ Warriors, Canterbury, Manly, Cronulla, Parramatta and the highlight of the year, the derby game against the Brisbane Broncos on Friday night, 15 May.
Yet to be locked in for dates and kick-off times are the home games against Canberra, South Sydney and Gold Coast.
Chasing a fifth straight finals appearance, North Queensland will play three of their first four matches at 1300SMILES Stadium with their only road trip being the Friday Night Football round-three showdown against the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on 20 March.
That match is one of only two already locked in for free-to-air television coverage on Channel Nine/WIN.
Constantly one of the highest rating teams on Fox Sports, the Cowboys have been allocated six Monday Night Football matches in the opening 20 rounds, including three in a row against the Storm at home, Penrith away on Easter Monday and reigning premiers South Sydney at ANZ Stadium in round six.
Also on the schedule is an Anzac Day afternoon fixture against the Newcastle Knights at Hunter Stadium in round eight.
Unusually there is only one match against the Gold Coast Titans, and former coach Neil Henry, in 2015 and that doesn’t come until the final round of the season after potentially gruelling back-to-back weeks of travel to Auckland and Melbourne.
Wests Tigers, who suffered a record-breaking loss to the Cowboys at 1300SMILES Stadium in 2014, St George Illawarra and Penrith are the three clubs who won’t be making the trip to North Queensland in the coming season, while the Cowboys’ away game schedule doesn’t include clashes with the Roosters, Bulldogs and Titans.
North Queensland will be without their State of Origin players for round 11 against the Tigers and round 17 against the Dragons – the second straight year that the Cowboys have had to take a below-strength team to St George Illawarra.
The 2015 State of Origin matches will be played on 27 May, 17 June and 8 July.