ANZ Championship releases `fan friendly’ 2016 draw

Reigning champions the Queensland Firebirds will kick off the 2016 ANZ Championship as part of a Friday night double header on both sides of the Tasman.

League organisers have released the 14-week regular season fixture, with the competition getting underway on Friday, 1 April in Brisbane and Auckland.

Among a number of improvements for 2016, weekly Saturday twilight games will be introduced and the Sunday night match in New Zealand will be brought forward to Sunday afternoon as the league looks to stagger games across the weekend.

Click here for the 2016 draw

The ANZ Championship continues its move towards larger venues with the Firebirds, along with the Adelaide Thunderbirds, NSW Swifts, Melbourne Vixens and West Coast Fever taking regular season fixtures to premier stadia in their home cities.

The Swifts will also play a match in Newcastle for the first time since 2012 when they host Fever in Round 11.

“Following a review at the conclusion of the 2015 season, we’ve worked closely with our teams and broadcast partners, SKY Sport, FOX SPORTS and Network Ten, to deliver a season for the fans,” ANZ Championship General Manager Andy Crook said.

“We believe the consistency in the timing of matches for the 2016 season will support the continued growth of the league and teams across Australia and New Zealand.”

The Firebirds will take regular season fixtures, including the much anticipated Grand Final rematch against the Swifts in Round 5, to the Brisbane Entertainment Centre after a successful finals series at the venue.

“Taking the ANZ Championship to world class venues remains a strategic priority, however it needs to be done so in a calculated manner and we believe that collectively this is being achieved,” Crook said.

The Firebirds will put the Challenge Trophy on the line in when they defend the title in the opening round against the Tactix at Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre.

The 2016 ANZ Championship Finals Series will be expanded to a month-long format with a week’s break between matches with the Grand Final contested on the last weekend of July.

Network Ten has confirmed that the ANZ Championship’s Sunday 12pm (AEST) game will be shown live on primary channel TEN in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide and ONE in Perth.