The NZ Kiwis will defend the Bill Kelly Cup and their #1 world ranking against the Australian Kangaroos at Newcastle’s Hunter Stadium on May 6.
As part of an international weekend of rugby league, the Kiwi Fern women will also face the world champion Jillaroo in the curtainraiser to the men’s showdown, while the Junior Kiwis take on the Junior Kangaroos the following day at Parramatta’s Pirtek Stadium, as the opening act to a Pacific doubleheader.
In the corresponding 2015 fixtures, the Kiwis created history with their third consecutive win over Australia and their first Anzac Test victory in 17 years, capturing the top ranking in the process. Both the women and juniors were narrowly defeated, having edged their rivals the previous year.
“Last year’s tests in Brisbane and the Gold Coast really connected the threads of our high performance programme,” says NZ Rugby League acting chief executive Alex Hayton. “Having our three premier national sides together as part of the same jersey presentation ceremony was certainly a very special occasion.
“The logistics of that may prove challenging for us this year, but the schedule still provides a unique opportunity to showcase our talent over a single weekend.”
The Kiwis have played twice in Newcastle in recent years, beating England there during the 2008 World Cup and losing to Australia in an end-of-year outing in 2011.
“Hunter Stadium is a great boutique stadium, where the crowd is close to the pitch, so there’s a great atmosphere,” says Hayton. “And Novacastrians love their league.
“We really cherish the chance to measure ourselves against Australia, and these games will take on added significance with the respective men’s and women’s World Cups little more than 12 months away.”
The men’s encounter will also mark the Kangaroos coaching debut of Australian league legend Mal Meninga.
“International rugby league is a real priority for us and this representative round will feature some great match-ups,” says NRL head of football Todd Greenberg.
The 2016 NRL representative schedule is:
Hunter Stadium, Newcastle
NZ Kiwi Ferns v Australia
NZ Kiwis v Australia
Pirtek Stadium, Parramatta
NZ Junior Kiwis v Junior Kangaroos
Pacific Doubleheader (Samoa, Tonga, Fiji & Papua New Guinea)
Scully Park, Tamworth
Country v City