The Apex Oval attendance record could be smashed next May after it was confirmed the South Sydney Rabbitohs will take on the Penrith Panthers in an NRL blockbuster at Dubbo.
The Rabbitohs announced last month they would be taking a premiership match to Dubbo in 2021 and the excitement only grew on Thursday when it was revealed this year's minor premiers Penrith would be the opposition.
Given Penrith's outstanding results on the way to making this year's grand final and strong ties to the region, headlined by St John's junior Isaah Yeo being the club's captain-in-waiting, as well as the Rabbitohs having more members than any other NRL club a bumper crowd is expected for the match on Sunday, May 23, barring any COVID restrictions.
The match, which is a Rabbitohs' home game, will kick-off at 2pm at Apex Oval.
"The people in regional areas have shown they love their rugby league, hence why we're happy to do our part to take some of our games to these regional centres," Rabbitohs CEO Blake Jolly said.
"All NRL clubs have an obligation to ensure that rugby league outside of Sydney is strong."
As well as NSW Origin representative Yeo, the Panthers squad has a strong Western Rams feel to it with fellow St John's junior Matt Burton to again be at the club in 2021 before linking with the Bulldogs, while Wellington's Brent Naden, Forbes speedster Charlie Staines and Parkes' Billy Burns are also in their ranks.
There is also a host of western area juniors in the club's lower ranks while the Rabbitohs also have a connection through Coonamble product and outside back Braidon Burns, who is expected to be fit and firing again in 2021 after missing much of this season through injury.
Given it is a Rabbitohs home game, players from the foundation club will run sessions with local juniors and fans in the days leading up to the game.
The club is expected to do the same at Mudgee in February in the lead-up to the annual Charity Shield match against St George Illawarra.
"We've also launched a new Central West Rabbitohs Membership this year encompassing our games in Dubbo and the Charity Shield in Mudgee in February, and we encourage all of our supporters in Dubbo to jump online and visit https://membership.rabbitohs.com.au to see what's on offer," Jolly added.
"This will be the first premiership NRL game to be played at Apex Oval, and staff have busily been preparing the field for the action."
Tickets for the match will go on sale in the New Year.
Six NRL regular season matches will be played in regional areas in 2021 and the details of those were also locked in on Thursday when the NRL draw for next year was released.
As well as Dubbo in round 11, Mudgee will host a clash between the Manly Sea Eagles and Gold Coast Titans in round six, Bathurst will feature a round eight battle between the Panthers and Manly, Wagga will host Newcastle in a round nine match on May 8, the Cronulla Sharks will take on the Titans at Coffs Harbour in round 12, and the Wests Tigers and Sharks will clash at Tamworth in round 23.