Sharks, Souths winners of NRL draw

Andrew Fifita has a few reasons to smile after the NRL draw was released. Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Cronulla, South Sydney and St George Illawarra have emerged as the big winners from the NRL's draw for 2019, each playing only one of last year's top-four twice in the 25 rounds.

The draw generally spreads the load, with no clubs dealt more than three five-day turnarounds and each club facing at least one of the 2018 top four twice.

The Rabbitohs' draw is arguably the smoothest, playing only four games against last year's top-four teams, meeting arch-rivals and premiers Sydney Roosters twice but Melbourne and Cronulla just once.

Souths are also one of only two teams - along with Penrith - to escape any five-day turnarounds.

Cronulla play the Storm twice, but only face Souths and the Roosters once - both at their home ground of Shark Park.

Shane Flanagan's Sharks also have one of the better starts to the year, slated to play 2018 battlers Newcastle, Gold Coast, North Queensland and Parramatta in the opening four rounds.

Elsewhere, the Dragons play a competition-low 10 games against last years finalists and avoid facing Brisbane, Melbourne, Penrith and the Warriors twice.

Brisbane and Gold Coast can consider themselves among the biggest losers of Thursday's announcement.

Brisbane are the only team to face each of last year's top four twice, and have both Melbourne and the Roosters in the opening four rounds as well as usually fast-starting St George Illawarra.

The Titans have 14 games against last year's finalists - the most of any team - but NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said it was incorrect to claim anyone draw was comparatively harder or softer.

"There will be some coaches who say they've got a tough draw, and I always try and figure out what they mean by that," Greenberg said.

"If you had drawn Parramatta or the Cowboys twice (in 2018), they were banked to be top-four teams.

"But the reality is if you got Parramatta twice this year your probably had a better draw than what you thought."

Brisbane again have the most free-to-air games with 15, but the spread is far more even in 2018 with Newcastle, the Titans and Warriors having the least with four but all up on last year.

KEY POINTS FROM YOUR TEAM'S NRL DRAW

Brisbane - Top-eight opponents: 12, Free-to-air: 15, Five-day turnarounds: 2

Canberra - Top-eight opponents: 13, Free-to-air: 5, Five-day turnarounds: 2

Canterbury - Top-eight opponents: 13, Free-to-air: 13, Five-day turnarounds: 2

Cronulla - Top-eight opponents: 12, Free-to-air: 11, Five-day turnarounds: 2

Gold Coast - Top-eight opponents: 14, Free-to-air: 4, Five-day turnarounds: 2

Manly - Top-eight opponents: 12, Free-to-air: 7, Five-day turnarounds: 1

Melbourne - Top-eight opponents: 11, Free-to-air: 11, Five-day turnarounds: 2

Newcastle - Top-eight opponents: 12, Free-to-air: 4, Five-day turnarounds: 1

North Queensland - Top-eight opponents: 13, Free-to-air: 10, Five-day turnarounds: 1

Parramatta - Top-eight opponents: 12, Free-to-air: 12, Five-day turnarounds: 2

Penrith - Top-eight opponents: 11, Free-to-air: 10, Five-day turnarounds: 0

South Sydney - Top-eight opponents: 12, Free-to-air: 13, Five-day turnarounds: 0

St George Illawarra - Top-eight opponents: 10, Free-to-air: 13, Five-day turnarounds: 3

Sydney Roosters - Top-eight opponents: 12, Free-to-air: 14, Five-day turnarounds: 2

Warriors - Top-eight opponents: 12, Free-to-air: 1, Five-day turnarounds: 4

Wests Tigers - Top-eight opponents: 11, Free-to-air: 12, Five-day turnarounds: 3