The 2019 NRL draw was released today with the Rabbitohs confirmed to be playing home games in two regional centres, as well as the 2019 Charity Shield in Mudgee, and a home game in the inaugural NRL Magic Weekend in Brisbane.
The Rabbitohs will play a home game against the New Zealand Warriors at Sunshine Coast Stadium in round five on Saturday 13 April at 3pm, supported by Tourism and Events Queensland and Sunshine Coast Council. This is the first NRL fixture to be played at Sunshine Coast Stadium.
South Sydney will also play a home game at Central Coast Stadium in Gosford in Round 21 on Sunday 11 August at 4.05pm against the Melbourne Storm. This is the second consecutive year the Rabbitohs have played a home game at Central Coast Stadium.
The Rabbitohs have also been scheduled a home game in the NRL's inaugural Magic Weekend to be played at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium against the North Queensland Cowboys. Magic Weekend is Round 9 in 2019, with the Rabbitohs scheduled to play on Sunday 12 May at 4.05pm.
For the second consecutive year, the Rabbitohs and Dragons will do battle for the 36th Charity Shield at Mudgee's Glen Willow Regional Sports Stadium, with the premier pre-season game set to kick off at 7.30pm on Saturday 2 March, 2019.
For the past decade, the Rabbitohs have taken a home game to Perth each year. However, with State of Origin heading to Optus Stadium in 2019 and expected to dominate in WA next year, a decision was made to not take a game to the Rugby League market in Perth.
For the past six seasons, the Rabbitohs have taken a home game to Barlow Park in Cairns. However, despite the strong support shown by the community in Cairns, a decision was made this year to spread the Rabbitohs' brand into a new region where the Club can service more of its Members in south-east Queensland, that being the Sunshine Coast.
Rabbitohs CEO Blake Solly is looking forward to taking the Rabbitohs to new centres in 2019.
"As a Club, we have a very broad Membership and supporter base so we're very excited to be playing on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, the Central Coast of New South Wales, and in Mudgee in 2019," Mr Solly said.
"By taking games to the Sunshine Coast and the Central Coast, it allows us to further grow our Membership and supporter bases around the country, particularly in these two strong Rugby League centres.
"We have attracted thousands of Members and supporters to our Club over the past ten years in both Perth and Cairns and we hope they will stick with us even though we won't be playing there in 2019.
"This definitely isn't goodbye for either destination in the future, however we have made a decision to shift to the Sunshine Coast from Cairns in 2019, with our other out-of-Sydney home games going to Gosford, as one did last year, and to Brisbane for the Magic Weekend.
These out-of-Sydney home games help provide the Club with the resources needed to invest back into our Football Department, with the re-introduction of a complete pathways program in 2019 and the construction of the Community and High Performance Centre at Heffron Park.
"We thank John Sackson and his team at NRLWA, as well as Mayor Bob Manning and his team at Cairns Regional Council, for their support and efforts over the past ten years and we look forward to working with them again in the future.
"Now we look forward to working with Mayor Mark Jamieson and his staff at Sunshine Coast Council, as well as Mayor Jane Smith and her team at Central Coast Council to build two wonderful NRL events for the 2019 season.
"As we did last year, we're looking forward to heading to Mudgee again to kick start our season with the annual Charity Shield clash. There was a sell-out crowd there last year to see the return of Greg Inglis from his knee injury and we're looking forward to a big turn-out again in 2019. Mayor Des Kennedy and his team at Mid-Western Regional Council have a reputation of putting on great sporting events and we're looking forward to that being the case again next March.
"Regional towns and cities in New South Wales and Queensland provide the NRL competition, and the Rabbitohs, with huge support and a constant supply of talented players. It is essential for NRL clubs to support these regions and continue to grow Rugby League by taking matches to cities and towns who are passionate about the NRL.
"Our Members can be very excited about this season. We have eight home games scheduled for Saturday and Sunday timeslots, making it easier for families to attend games throughout the year.
"For our Sydney-based Members, we have nine games at home at ANZ Stadium, five of which are on weekends, as well as two Friday night games.
"Members will also be able to access the Bulldogs away game on Good Friday through our reciprocal rights agreement, and we're working hard with opposition clubs on gaining reciprocal access or discounted tickets for our Members at other away games throughout the season.
"Bookending the season playing against our rivals, the Roosters, will be a great way to start the season, as well as a lead in to what will hopefully be another Finals series in 2019.
"For our Queensland Members, they will be able to access two tickets to the Sunshine Coast home game, the Broncos away game or the Cowboys away game, as well as discounted tickets to the Magic Weekend in Brisbane in May.
"From a football point of view we don't have any five-day turnarounds which is fantastic from a player welfare and recovery perspective.
"Bring on Season 2019!"
"The Rabbitohs are one of the premier clubs in the NRL and we're delighted that they will be setting up a home away home in our region, and playing at our stadium, for the next three years.
Central Coast Mayor Jane Smith said that the Coast-based Rabbitohs game will be a big draw-card for both the Stadium and the Central Coast.
"Not only does the Coast have a legion of Rugby League supporters, but we also have a strong Rabbitohs following, and we expect to see them out in hordes for the game.
"It's great to know that the Rabbitohs have become a fixture for the Stadium – the reputation of this iconic Central Coast asset as a venue for elite sports, premier entertainment and outstanding community events is standing strong."
Mayor of the Mid-Western Region, Des Kennedy said the community was eager to welcome back the South Sydney Rabbitohs and St George Illawarra Dragons in March 2019.
Cr Mark Jamieson, Mayor of Sunshine Coast Council, said: "This is an announcement that I know many people have wanted to hear – NRL matches are coming to the Sunshine Coast.
"I'm sure all sports lovers in our region, especially Rugby League fans, will be keen to see the Rabbitohs and Warriors – two teams who made the top eight in 2018 - in action in their own backyard in April."
"Both the Rabbitohs and Dragons have large fan bases in the NSW Central West and the 2018 Charity Shield clearly demonstrated that with the February game attracting a crowd of more than 9,000 people," Cr Kennedy said.
"The March 2 game at Mudgee's premier Glen Willow Stadium is yet another chance for regional Rugby League fans to see these elite players in action."
To see the Rabbitohs' full draw for Season 2019, please click here.
The Rabbitohs have Ticketed and non-Ticketed Memberships to suit every Rabbitohs supporter. Check out all of the packages, including Queensland Memberships and Flexi Memberships to suit those who live in the Sunshine Coast and Central Coast regions, by clicking here.
Tickets for matches in the 2019 season, as well as the Charity Shield, will go on sale on shortly. Keep an eye on www.rabbitohs.com.au for more information in the coming weeks.