Panthers to play Dragons in opening game

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Panthers captain Matt Moylan with coach Anthony Griffin

Penrith fans will have to wait until round three for the first home game of the 2017 NRL season, with the Panthers on the road for the opening fortnight.

The Panthers will open their 2017 campaign against St George-Illawarra on Saturday, March 4 at 4.30pm at Kogarah.

Penrith then head to Campbelltown to take on the Tigers in round two on a Sunday afternoon before heading home to Pepper Stadium to take on the Roosters on Saturday, March 17 at 7pm.

The Panthers will then be forced into a nightmare 6pm timeslot on Friday, March 24 to play last year’s wooden spooners Newcastle at Pepper Stadium.

It is an almost impossible game for Panthers officials to market and thousands of fans are likely to miss the game due to work and travel commitments.

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said he expects the 6pm Friday timeslot to be a hit despite obvious crowd issues.

“Fans will be able to see two games live on Fridays and, while the early game may present some challenges in terms of attendances, we think it will be a big hit,” he said.

“Certainly this is a much more family friendly time than the late-night Friday game that we had a couple of years ago.”

Penrith spend the first month of the competition in Sydney before travelling to Melbourne in round five to take on the Storm at AAMI Park.

The NRL has released the full times and scheduling for the first 20 rounds, with the final six rounds to be determined at a later date.

Incredibly, Penrith play four straight games at Pepper Stadium between rounds 20 and 23, including likely blockbusters against the Bulldogs, Tigers and Cowboys.

The Western Weekender can confirm that the Panthers are not taking a match to Christchurch next year, but will continue their deal to take one home game to Bathurst.

Panthers have confirmed that Pepper Stadium will host 11 matches, instead of the previously announced 10 games.

The Panthers have six games scheduled for free-to-air television at this stage, and only one Thursday night game.

Penrith will host plenty of big matches at Pepper Stadium in 2016 but one key fixture missing is a home game against arch rivals Parramatta.

SEE PENRITH’S FULL DRAW HERE

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