The countdown to NRL season 2014

Safe choice: Anthony Minichiello, the face of league for 2014. Photo: Ben Rushton Anthony Minichiello at the launch of the 2014 NRL premiership at glebe IslandSmh sportPhotos Ben RushtonFeb 26 2014 Photo: Ben Rushton

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As Sydney Roosters veteran Anthony Minichiello helped launch the start of the season, NRL chief executive Dave Smith unveiled an initiative to make rugby league games more affordable.

The NRL, in conjunction with the NSW government, ANZ Stadium, Canterbury and South Sydney, have agreed to include public transport as part of ticket costs for all 27 games at the Olympic stadium. It is part of a $2 million drive from the NRL to improve fan experience. ”It will apply to all 27 club games being played at ANZ Stadium this season,” Smith said. ”In other words, when you buy a ticket in advance for any game at ANZ you get the transport thrown in. Not only is it going to save fans money but it is going to reduce traffic congestion around the ground and give fans a much more enjoyable game-day experience.”

With more than 600 club members invited to attend the season launch at Sydney Exhibition Centre in Glebe, Minichiello was chosen as the man to officially open this year’s campaign. The captain of the defending premiers said after 14 years in the top grade the sport continued to get better.

”Even though a ball hasn’t been kicked, we already have plenty to celebrate,” he said. ”The footy gets more exciting every season. The skill and power of the players today is amazing and the coverage on TV is the best in the world.

”The room tonight is full of players, coaches, referees, sponsors, media, NRL and club officials and, of course, our members and fans, and everyone here tonight is talking about the footy and what we think, hope, dream will happen this season. That’s what’s so special about our game. Rugby league brings people from all walks of life together.

”And together we do make a difference. Together we are tackling bullying, we are teaching kids to read, to eat the right foods, to respect others and to dream, believe and achieve. Together we are part of the most exciting sporting competition in the world.”

While last year was a special one for Minichiello, who became a father for the first time when he welcomed baby girl Azura into the world, this year promises to be even more exciting. ”I know I am here to officially launch the season on behalf of all players, but there is one group I do want to single out tonight – how great is it to be a dad?” he said.

”I can see plenty of dads in the room tonight. Cam Smith, Sammy Perrett, Gids, Cozza, you all know what I am talking about. I get goose bumps just thinking about playing in front of my daughter. I think now I truly understand why my mum was out there every weekend filming every match Mark and I ever played as kids.”

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