LEEDS RHINOS chief executive Gary Hetherington is relishing the chance for the club to make a long-awaited competitive return to Post Office Road.
The Super League champions begin life in the Qualifiers by heading to Championship club Featherstone Rovers on Saturday, August 6.
It will be televised live by Sky Sports with Leeds then hosting Hull KR before visiting second-tier London Broncos on Saturday, August 20 for another game covered by the broadcasters.
Hetherington watched part-timers Featherstone snatch fourth place in the Championship – and the final Qualifiers spot – with a fine 20-0 win over Bradford Bulls at Post Office Road on Sunday.
“Featherstone Rovers and Leeds historically was always a terrific clash and this will be one to savour, too,” he said.
“It’s 16 years since we’ve been to Post Office Road and that was in the 2000 Challenge Cup.
“I know our fans will be looking forward to going back there as well as the players and it’s a great way to start off the Qualifiers.
“It’s been more than 30 years since Leeds and Batley played each other. It was in 1979 in the Yorkshire Cup and I actually played for Leeds in that game. I remember it.
“But that was at Batley; the last time they have done so at Headingley is more than 40 years ago so that’s another we will look forward to.”
Featherstone face a tricky opening run with a trip to Super League Huddersfield Giants following that Leeds game and then a home match with Championship leaders Leigh Centurions while top-flight Hull KR journey over on September 18.
Fellow part-timers Batley, meanwhile, kick off against Hull KR on Sunday, August 7 before John Kear’s side – who have performed such heroics this term – venture to London.
Huddersfield then arrive at Mount Pleasant on Sunday, August 21 with the trip to Headingley on Friday, September 9 and Super League Salford Red Devils rounding off their campaign when visiting on September 25.
In Super League, Castleford begin their quest to somehow try and rise up into the top-four with a trip to leaders and Challenge Cup semi-finalists Hull FC in the televised game next Friday.
Next up is a home game with Wigan Warriors and then a trip to Warrington Wolves, all of which will test the credentials of Daryl Powell’s side who hope to soon have influential prop Andy Lynch back from a broken leg to aid their cause.
Wakefield, meanwhile, are at Wigan next Friday – hoping the Warriors will have a hangover from this week’s Challenge Cup semi-final against Hull FC – before hosting Warrington on Sunday, August 14.
Finally, in the Championship Shield, Glenn Morrison’s Dewsbury Rams start out at home to Swinton Lions a week on Sunday with their eagerly-awaited home match against fallen giants Bradford on Monday, August 29.