SUPER LEAGUE chief executive Nigel Wood is predicting a World Cup year will provide the catalyst for the greatest Super League season ever.
The fixtures for the 2013 campaign have been published today and Wood believes the competition is well-placed to scale new heights in a year which climaxes with the Rugby League World Cup.
Other highlights of 2013 include a full round of Super League matches over Magic Weekend at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium and the return of ‘Extraordinary Mondays’ with nine rounds of live Super League Monday night action on Sky Sports.
“Super League continued to build in stature in 2012 with record attendances and viewing figures and I’m sure this exciting fixture schedule will see even more people enjoy the experience of watching this extraordinary competition in 2013,” said Wood.
“We have a 14-team Super League in 2013 followed by a 14-nation Rugby League World Cup and that makes for the perfect formula for success.”
The 18th Super League season gets under way on Friday, February 1 when champions Leeds Rhinos begin their defence of the title at home to Hull FC.
That fixture will be played out in front of the Sky Sports cameras, which will also be at Langtree Park the following day for the Saints v Giants clash.
Round Four will comprise six matches to allow Leeds Rhinos to host Australian NRL champions Melbourne Storm in the 2013 World Club Challenge on Friday February 22, a match which will televised live and exclusive on Sky Sports.
The Sky cameras will also be at the KC Stadium on Saturday, February 23 to capture Hull FC v Warrington Wolves before heading west for Salford City Reds v Hull KR on Sunday, February 24.
The 2013 season will feature a return to the popular Monday night Super League action on Sky Sports from Monday, May 20, when the first of nine ‘Extraordinary Monday’ launches with the mouth-watering clash between Leeds Rhinos and St Helens.
Eight different clubs will host the nine ‘Extraordinary Monday’ matches, which conclude with London Broncos versus Leeds Rhinos on Monday August 5.
All 14 Super League clubs will head for the Etihad Stadium on the Bank Holiday weekend of May 25-26 for the unique experience of Magic Weekend, which hosts the event for a second successive year.
The schedule for Magic Weekend 2013 features a spellbinding blend of derbies and arch rivalries, and includes four matches at the home of football champions Manchester City on Saturday, May 25 and three the following day.
Magic Weekend opens at noon with Salford City Reds v Widnes Vikings before local rivals Bradford Bulls and the Giants Huddersfield Giants go head to head from 2.15.
Bragging rights will be no more valuable than in the third match on Saturday, the Hull derby between Hull FC and Hull KR who face each other in a 4.30 start before St Helens and Warrington Wolves provide a final flourish from 6.45.
The Sunday Magic gets under way at 3.00 with Catalan Dragons v London Broncos and continues with the West Yorkshire derby, Castleford Tigers v Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, at 5.15.
A memorable weekend will reach a crescendo with the battle between Grand Final winners Leeds Rhinos and 2012 League Leaders Wigan Warriors, who bring proceedings to a close from 7.30.
The regular season concludes with the round 27 fixtures over the weekend of September 6-8, after which the top eight clubs enter the play-off race, culminating in the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford on Saturday, October 5.
Other highlights of the 2013 domestic calendar include the entry of the Super League clubs into the fourth round of the Challenge Cup on the weekend of April 20-21 and the final itself at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, August 24.
Following the Grand Final, all attention switches to the 14-nation Rugby League World Cup which starts on Saturday, October 26 with a double header featuring England v Australia and Wales v Italy at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium before concluding with the final at Manchester’s Old Trafford on Saturday, November 30.