|Full name||Hunter Mariners Rugby
League Football Club
|Founded||28 April 1995|
|Ground(s)||Topper Stadium (11,000)|
|1997||6th of 10|
The Hunter Mariners were an Australian rugby league club based in the Hunter Region's largest city, Newcastle. Hunter was formed in mid-1995 and was later disbanded at the end of 1997. The club was formed because of the Super League war, which was the rivalry between the traditional Australian Rugby League competition and the new media driven Super League competition. The team competed in the inaugural and only Super League season in 1997, as well as that year's World Club Challenge.
The Mariners faced much adversity in the Newcastle region because of the Australian Rugby League's Newcastle Knights team being already well-established in the region. The club played its home games at Topper Stadium and missed out on the finals of the 1997 Super League season, but made the grand final of the World Club Challenge. The team was overshadowed by the Newcastle Knights who won the ARL competition and were admitted into the 1998 re-united competition. The Mariners were disbanded after being left out of the new competition because they believed that the Hunter region could not support two entities.
The New South Wales Rugby League competition (NSWRL) had been formed in 1908 as the first rugby league competition in Australia. There was a Newcastle based club in the first two seasons of the Sydney based competition, but they eventually left to form their own Newcastle Rugby League competition. It was not until 1988 that another Newcastle based team was admitted into the NSWRL. In 1995, the Australian Rugby League (ARL) took control of the competition amid the beginning of the Super League war. It was then that News Limited began proposing and deliberating a rival rugby league competition and the twenty teams which competed in the 1995 ARL season were split between the Super League and ARL competitions.
The Newcastle Knights, the Newcastle based team formed in 1988, aligned itself with the ARL and the new Super League competition was left without a Newcastle based team. The Super League then established their own Newcastle based team. The financially successful Newcastle Wests Leagues Club was given a licence to form a club for the 1996 inaugural Super League season.
In July 1995, it was officially announced that the Newcastle based team would be called the "Hunter Mariners". However, in the middle of 1995, members of the Newcastle Wests Leagues Club did not want the club involved in the rebel competition, and the club held a meeting after 5,000 fans signed a petition objecting to the club’s involvement. After this, and when local unions became involved in the protest, the Leagues Club abandoned the licence. The club then became owned and supported by News Limited.
In early 1996, the Hunter Mariners club was officially launched, without a home ground, but on that same day the Super League was banned from running its rebel competition. Originally the Mariners were allowed to use the Newcastle Knights home ground Marathon Stadium by the Showground Trust, but the Supreme Court found that no rights to play here. The club eventually played at Topper Stadium, and used over $1 million dollars to upgrade facilities at the stadium. After an appeal in mid-1996, the Super League was officially allowed to run the competition, which would begin in 1997.
1997 Super League Telstra Cup
The Mariners lost their first three games of the premiership season, their first a narrow loss on their home ground. However, after the first loss at home, the Mariners were able to win seven consecutive matches at Topper Stadium. Despite this home ground record, Mariners were never able to win away from home. They lost all nine matches played away from their stadium, and subsequently missed out on the finals for the Super League season.
The Mariners were able to produce some representative players throughout their one season. Noel Goldthorpe and Robbie Ross were selected in the Super League Tri-Series and Goldthorpe scored the winning points for New South Wales in the final of that series. Tyran Smith, Tony Iro and Kevin Iro were all selected for the New Zealand representative team. While mid-year find Brett Kimmorley was the club’s sole selection for Australia in the Super League Test series against Great Britain.
|1||Hunter Mariners||16–20||Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs||2 March 1997||Topper Stadium||6,579|
|2||Auckland Warriors||18–14||Hunter Mariners||8 March 1997||Mount Smart Stadium||20,300|
|3||Adelaide Rams||10–8||Hunter Mariners||14 March 1997||Adelaide Oval||27,435|
|4||Hunter Mariners||38–10||North Queensland Cowboys||22 March 1997||Topper Stadium||6,090|
|5||Canberra Raiders||18–12||Hunter Mariners||30 March 1997||Bruce Stadium||15,650|
|6||Penrith Panthers||36–24||Hunter Mariners||4 April 1997||Penrith Stadium||8,926|
|7||Hunter Mariners||18–10||Auckland Warriors||12 April 1997||Topper Stadium||7,719|
|8||Hunter Mariners||36–16||Perth Reds||18 April 1997||Topper Stadium||4,139|
|9||Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks||26–0||Hunter Mariners||26 April 1997||Endeavour Stadium||12,284|
|10||Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs||48–36||Hunter Mariners||12 May 1997||Belmore Sports Ground||7,126|
|11||Hunter Mariners||30–6||Penrith Panthers||16 May 1997||Topper Stadium||2,198|
|12||Hunter Mariners||24–6||Brisbane Broncos||30 May 1997||Topper Stadium||7,124|
|13||Hunter Mariners||16–12||Canberra Raiders||27 June 1997||Topper Stadium||7,404|
|14||Hunter Mariners||10–2||Adelaide Rams||5 July 1997||Topper Stadium||2,345|
|15||North Queensland Cowboys||33–14||Hunter Mariners||13 July 1997||Willows Stadium||11,480|
|16||Perth Reds||30–22||Hunter Mariners||10 August 1997||WACA||5,083|
|17||Brisbane Broncos||34–16||Hunter Mariners||18 August 1997||QE II||13,830|
|18||Hunter Mariners||16–28||Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks||24 August 1997||Topper Stadium||5,122|
1997 World Club Championship
The Super League had also begun a rugby league competition in England, and they had created a mixed competition, encompassing Super League clubs from Australia, New Zealand, France and England, known as the World Club Challenge. The 1997 World Club Championship was held in order to crown "the best club in the world". The Mariners would be a part of Australasia’s group A and compete over in England, before returning to complete the Australian part of the competition. The Mariners surprisingly won all three games in England, over Paris Saint-Germain, Castleford and Sheffield. They returned home to again win the three games at Topper Stadium and would therefore go on to make the finals of the competition.
The finals system meant that they would have to play their finals match in England against English Super League club Wigan. The Mariners shocked the club and the league by winning 22–18. That score line would again be repeated in the grand final qualifier against Australian club Cronulla, another match the Mariners were expected to lose. But the Mariners were able to defeat the Australian Super League runners-up to take themselves to the grand final of the competition. Against the winners of the Super League grand final, Brisbane, the Mariners were blown away by the competition favourites. In what would be their final rugby league match as a club, the Mariners were down at half-time 26–4 and the final scoreline of 36–12 prevented the Mariners taking out a A$1 million dollars prize.
|Group||Paris Saint-Germain||12–28||Hunter Mariners||8 June 1997||Stade Sébastien Charléty||3,500|
|Group||Castleford Tigers||12–42||Hunter Mariners||13 June 1997||Wheldon Road||3,087|
|Group||Sheffield Eagles||4–40||Hunter Mariners||20 June 1997||Don Valley Stadium||2,350|
|Group||Hunter Mariners||26–8||Castleford Tigers||20 July 1997||Topper Stadium||3,379|
|Group||Hunter Mariners||32–4||Paris Saint-Germain||27 July 1997||Topper Stadium||2,210|
|Group||Hunter Mariners||58–12||Sheffield Eagles||3 August 1997||Topper Stadium||1,965|
|QF||Wigan Warriors||18–22||Hunter Mariners||3 October 1997||Central Park||9,553|
|SF||Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks||18–22||Hunter Mariners||11 October 1997||Shark Park||5,214|
|F||Brisbane Broncos||36–12||Hunter Mariners||17 October 1997||Mount Smart Stadium||12,000|
The agreement of the ARL and Super League was to unify and become one competition, to be known as the National Rugby League (NRL), was that only twenty teams would compete in the competition in 1998. This meant that three of the twenty-two teams from both competitions was to be demised with the addition of a new Melbourne based team. With the other Newcastle based team, the Newcastle Knights winning the 1997 premiership, they were admitted into the new competition, however the NRL saw that two Newcastle based teams would not be financially viable.
Late in 1997, the club was offered to merge with Gold Coast-based team the Gold Coast Chargers, which would be known as the Gold Coast Mariners and would be based in the Gold Coast. However the Gold Coast party withdrew late to go alone in the 1998 competition, and while the Mariners tried to do the same, they, along with South Queensland Crushers and Western Reds, were not admitted into the NRL competition, thus ending their tenure as a first-grade rugby league team.
Players from the Hunter Mariners that have represented another teams while at the club include Australian international Brett Kimmorley and New Zealand internationals Kevin Iro, Tony Iro and Tyran Smith. Robbie Ross and Noel Goldthorpe also played for New South Wales in the State of origin.
|10||Neil Piccinelli||Lock, Second-row||1997||17||6||2||-||28|
|11||Willie Poching||Lock, Second-row||1997||13||3||1||-||14|
|15||Gavin Thompson||Fullback, Wing||1997||12||3||-||-||12|
|16||Nick Zisti||Centre, Wing||1997||17||9||20||-||76|
|18||John Carlaw||Centre, Wing||1997||8||-||-||-||-|
|27||Craig Wise||Centre, Wing||1997||4||4||-||-||16|
Records and statistics
Scott Hill, Peter Gregory, and Tony Stone share the record of playing every eighteen games for the Mariners, being the players with the most first grade games. Nick Zisti, however is the Mariner's most prolific record holder, with the most first grade points for the team with 76 points. This encompasses the most tries for the team with nine as well as most goals with twenty. Zisti has the most tries and goals in a match with three and five scored respectively in a match. The Mariners have only had three representatives, Robbie Ross and Noel Goldthorpe represented New South Wales in the Super League Tri-Series while Brett Kimmorley represented Australia in the Super League test matches.
Their home ground success, winning seven from nine matches, was never able to attract decent figure crowds, their highest reaching 7,719. Compared with the Super League competition average of 12,347 and the nearby Newcastle Knights had an average of 14,257 home attendances. With crowds at these levels, the Mariners were unsuccessfully competing in the Newcastle area.
|1997 Super League season||18||7||0||11||350||363||−13||38.89%||6/10|
|1997 World Club Championship||9||8||0||1||282||120||+162||88.89%||2/22|
- "The Gardens". Australian Stadiums. Retrieved 23 March 2008.
- Fagen, Sean. "Rugby League History – Hunter Mariners". Retrieved 13 June 2008.[dead link]
- Whiticker, Alan & Collis, Ian (2004). The History of Rugby League Clubs. New Holland Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd. ISBN 1-74110-075-5.
- Hadfield, Dave (16 October 1997). "The short but amazing life of Hunter Mariners". The Independent (independent.co.uk). Retrieved 6 October 2009.
- Smith, James. "Sydney Premiership 1997 (Super League) details". Archived from the original on 29 August 2005. Retrieved 15 April 2008.
- Jeffs, Paul. "Rugby League Tables / Hunter Scorers". Retrieved 15 April 2008.