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Penrith livid as NRL draw released

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 24/11/2016 Scott Bailey, Steve Zemek and Warren Barnsley

Penrith chief executive Brian Fletcher has called for clubs to be able to review a draft of the NRL draw before its release.

Thursday's draw was hailed as a win for the players, with a 38 per cent drop to 19 five-day turnarounds in 2017, a previous sticking point with the Rugby League Players' Association (RLPA).

However not all clubs were happy.

Penrith are livid they won't host arch-rivals Parramatta, a match that has been in their top-two crowd-pullers for the past 14 seasons with an average attendance of more than 18,000.

"It's a major disappointment," Fletcher told AAP.

"It's one game that would be sold out for sure - it's good for the league, Parramatta and Penrith. But apparently (the NRL) didn't see it that way."

Clubs were given a full list of their home fixtures on Wednesday morning and told the NRL would call around to discuss concerns.

However, Fletcher claims the NRL forgot to include the Panthers in its ringaround.

"Unfortunately for Penrith, the NRL forgot to ring us," Fletcher said.

"I've spoke to them since then and told them we weren't contacted because that's what Todd Greenberg informed us.

"And told them how disappointed we were that we didn't get a chance to discuss it."

Also earning the ire of Penrith was their 6pm Friday evening match against Newcastle in round four, given it takes at least 90 minutes to reach the ground from Sydney's CBD.

Six of the 6pm games in the first 20 rounds are scheduled in New Zealand, but fans who work in the Sydney CBD will have to battle to make kickoff at Belmore, Penrith, Kogarah and Brookvale.

"It'd be the last timeslot you have at Penrith," Fletcher said.

In the future, Fletcher believes all NRL clubs should be brought together as the draw is completed.

"In all businesses, they do a draft and give it to their customers to see whether it works or not," he said.

"If you got all the clubs in the room when they're doing the draw, you're able to compromise with other clubs."

Another club likely to be unhappy is South Sydney, who have been given four five-day turnarounds, while North Queensland, Newcastle, Cronulla, the Wests Tigers and Gold Coast have none.

Regardless, RLPA chairman Clint Newton described as a win the 12-game reduction in five-day turnarounds on last season - which was more than the 25 per cent promise previously made by Greenberg.

"I certainly think it's going to help (the quality of the game) and offset some of the issues which were around last year," Newton said.

"By giving players time to prepare and recover, it's going to add to the competition. It's also going to ensure players play as best they can for as long as they can."

Greenberg hoped that number would drop again next year when the NRL took control of the draw from the television networks, as would their influence over timeslots and fixturing.

"We've made a really strong statement today that player welfare is very important for us," Greenberg said.

The season begins on Thursday March 2 with premiers Cronulla hosting Brisbane at Southern Cross Group Stadium, while South Sydney's Robbie Farah will face the Tigers for the first time the following night at ANZ Stadium.

The grand final rematch between the Sharks and Melbourne will be played in round six at AAMI Park.

The season also includes the World Club Series, Auckland Nines, All Stars clash, the final City-Country match on May 7, State of Origin on May 31 in Brisbane, June 21 in Sydney and then back in Brisbane on July 12, before the end-of-season World Cup.

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