THE NRL will stage a Melbourne Storm-Bulldogs grand final rematch in a Thursday night blockbuster in round three of next year's premiership.
Channel Nine has chosen the Thursday night matches for the first three weeks, with the Roosters and Souths to open the season followed by the Eels and Bulldogs in the second round.
This column has been leaked details of an early draft of Channel Nine's free-to-air choices on Thursday, Friday and Sunday in the opening 20 rounds.
Again, the Brisbane Broncos will get more Channel Nine coverage than any other club because of the ratings they attract in Queensland.
It's understood 18 of their matches in the first 20 rounds will be shown on free-to-air on Thursday or Friday night.
Nine is obviously expecting the Rabbitohs and the Bulldogs to be highly competitive again because they have been given 14 free-to-air spots each.
The next best is Manly with 10 appearances.
The scheduling requests have come from Nine sports director Steve Crawley and Matt Callander, the station's head of rugby league broadcasts.
Surprisingly, Wayne Bennett's Newcastle Knights have been given only five games on free-to-air.
The Raiders and the Warriors have fared even worse withone game each.
The Cronulla Sharks, boosted by the signings of Beau Ryan, Luke Lewis and Michael Gordon, will get at least eight games. Nine is also expecting wooden-spooners Parramatta to improve under Ricky Stuart by choosing them for eight games.
The draw for the entire 26 rounds will not be finalised until the middle of next month.
Under the new broadcasting agreement with Nine and Fox Sports, full scheduling will be decided for the first 20 rounds.
Should Nine's early draft be ratified, the Broncos' domination of free-to-air games will be a major talking point among the rival clubs.