WORLD'S BEST: The North Queensland Cowboys celebrate after defeating the Leeds Rhinos 38-4 in last year's World Club Series.
WORLD'S BEST: The North Queensland Cowboys celebrate after defeating the Leeds Rhinos 38-4 in last year's World Club Series. Mike Egerton

Your ultimate guide to the NRL pre-season

WELL that was scary.

It's been 56 days since the Four Nations final, when we last saw a Steeden kicked in anger and 120 kilos of Shannon Boyd cutting about in short shorts.

But that all changes in a mere matter of weeks, because the footy is back, and back with a vengeance.

The first sultry weekend of February gives us crowd favourite the Auckland Nines, and kicks off the longest rugby league season in memory - clocking in at more than 300 days by the time the World Cup final rolls round in December.

Be it Nines, All Stars, World Club Series or your team's trials, we've got you covered with everything you need to know in our 2017 ultimate pre-season guide.

AUCKLAND NINES

When: February 4-5

Where: Eden Park

Where to watch: Live and exclusive on Fox Sports

We all know the drill now, nine players a side, nine minutes a half and anything can happen.

JT, Hayne, Johnson and the whole NRL gang will descend on Auckland for an action-packed weekend with $2.3 million of prizemoney on offer and 16 coaches praying their stars get through unscathed.

The 2017 edition will also see the controversial zero-tackle rule on 20-metre taps scrapped for the tournament.

Pools: Piha: Dragons, Eels, Sea Eagles, Warriors; Hunua: Cowboys, Roosters, Raiders, Rabbitohs; Rangitoto: Knights, Wests Tigers, Broncos, Storm; Waiheke: Sharks, Titans, Panthers, Bulldogs.

ALL STARS

When: Friday, February 12

Where: Hunter Stadium, Newcastle

Anyone who questions this fixture's place on the NRL calendar need only look to the good it does across the wider league community and sit back down.

This year's clash travels down the highway, with Newcastle hosting this celebration of indigenous footy - and the game itself - for the first time.

The biggest and best are all on board as usual, with Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga steering the All Stars for the first time against his old Origin counterpart Laurie Daley.

The Women's All Stars clash will act as the curtain-raiser as the Indigenous girls look to avenge a 24-4 loss to the All Stars last year.

World All Stars: Jarryd Hayne, David Mead, Joey Leilua, Konrad Hurrell, Nene Macdonald, Mitch Moses, Adam Reynolds, Nate Myles, Jake Friend, Jordan McLean, Gavin Cooper, Bryce Cartwright, Jake Trbojevic. Interchange: Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Sosaia Feki, Sione Mata'utia, Sam Lisone, Moses Mbye, Tepai Moeroa, Jordan Turner

Indigenous All Stars: Jack Wighton, Blake Ferguson, Greg Inglis, Will Chambers, Dane Gagai, Johnathan Thurston, Ash Taylor, Ryan James, Nathan Peats, Andrew Fifita, Joel Thompson, Wade Graham, Sam Thaiday. Interchange: Tyrone Peachey, Jack Bird, Leilani Latu, Latrell Mitchell, Aidan Sezer, Kyle Turner, Adam Elliott

WORLD CLUB SERIES

When: February 18-19

Where: UK

The format has been scaled back given a bumper 2017 season is on the horizon, but this year's clashes offer quality over quantity.

NRL heavyweight Brisbane is on board again and will take on Super League grand finalist Warrington on the Saturday.

Then Cronulla - fresh off finally switching off the porch light left on for Harold Holt - faces English giant Wigan for the title of best club on the planet.

TRIAL GAMES

(All local times)

Broncos: February 11 v Ipswich, North Ipswich Reserve, 7.30pm; February 18: v Warrington, Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington, UK, 8pm

Raiders: February 18: v Knights, Seiffert Oval, Queanbeyan, 7.30pm

Bulldogs: February 11: v Panthers, Belmore Sports Ground, 6pm; February 18: v Storm, North Hobart Oval, 4.30pm

Sharks: February 19: v Wigan, DW Stadium, Wigan, 3pm

Titans: February 11 v Eels, Alice Springs, 7.30pm; February 19: v Warriors, Central Energy Trust Arena, Palmerston North, NZ, 2pm

Sea Eagles: February 11: v Rabbitohs, Campbelltown Stadium, 7.30pm

Storm: February 11: v Warriors, Sunshine Coast Stadium, 5pm; February 18: v Bulldogs, North Hobart Oval, 4.30pm

Knights: February 18: v Raiders, Seiffert Oval, Queanbeyan, 7.30pm

Cowboys: February 11: v Roosters, BB Print Stadium, Mackay, 7.30pm

Eels: February 11 v Titans, Alice Springs, 7.30pm; February 18: v Panthers, Pepper Stadium, Penrith

Panthers: February 11: v Bulldogs, Belmore Sports Ground, 6pm; February 18: v Eels, Pepper Stadium, Penrith

Rabbitohs: February 11: v Sea Eagles, Campbelltown Stadium, 7.30pm; February 19: Charity Shield v Dragons, ANZ Stadium, Sydney, 4pm

Dragons: February 11: v Wests Tigers, WIN Stadium, Wollongong, 7.40pm; February 19: Charity Shield v Rabbitohs, ANZ Stadium, Sydney, 4pm

Roosters: February 11: v Cowboys, BB Print Stadium, Mackay, 7.30pm

Warriors: February 11: v Storm, Sunshine Coast Stadium, 5pm; February 19: v Titans, Central Energy Trust Arena, Palmerston North, NZ, 2pm

Tigers: February 11: v Dragons, WIN Stadium, Wollongong, 7.40pm; February 17: v Cowboys, Campbelltown Stadium, 7pm

FOX SPORTS



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