National Rugby League stars Greg Inglis and Shaun Johnson will officially launch the 2015 rugby league calendar in Auckland, New Zealand, on Thursday night.
In a boost for the code in the country, which will also host the Dick Smith Auckland Nines on January 31 and February 1, it is the first time the season launch has been held outside Australia.
Inglis was recently promoted to captain of the South Sydney Rabbitohs who broke a 43-year premiership drought in 2014, while Johnson led New Zealand to the 2014 Four Nations title and was recently awarded the Golden Boot for the best player in the world.
Season 2015 kicks off on Saturday January 31 with day one of the Dick Smith Auckland Nines tournament, and the Harvey Norman All Stars match returns on February 13.
The NRL premiership kicks off on Thursday, March 5, and there is a stand-alone representative weekend from May 1-3. The three State of Origin matches take place on three states with the Melbourne Cricket Ground hosting a match for the first time since 1997.
The finals series begins on September 11 and the Grand Final will be played on October 4.
“Every year we consider players who best represent what is great about the game,” NRL Head of Commercial Paul Kind told nrl.com.
“In Shaun Johnson and Greg Inglis, you have two very special players, two very unique talents, and players who in the course of last year shone in our major events.
“On top of that, they are two players who off the field gave a lot back to the community. They chose themselves.”
“It’s an incredible honour and I will feel great pride standing alongside Shaun to launch the 2015 calendar,” Inglis told nrl.com.
“You dream of just playing rugby league but to win a premiership with Souths, to be named captain of the club and to kick the season off like this, all in the space of a few months, is truly special and something I can carry with me always.
“It’s changed my life. My dream is that there are kids out there who will be inspired enough to believe that their lives can be changed by Rugby League too.”
Johnson helped the Kiwis win the Four Nations last year, and will be one of the Warriors’ superstars in the club’s 20th season this year.
“I have been aware of the players who have opened the season before but never thought I’d ever be in a position to do it,” Johnson told nrl.com.
“It’s a significant honour for me personally but also for the game in this country.
“It can only do good for the game having this kind of profile here.”