The golden point is used to determine a winner (where applicable, see below) when scores are level at the end of regular time. Before its introduction in Australasia's National Rugby League competition, normal season games were left as draws; in finals matches, 20 minutes extra time ensued (10 minutes each way), with a replay in the event of a draw.
If the scores are level at the end of 80 minutes, 5 minutes are played, the teams swap ends with no break, and a further 5 minutes are played. Any score (try, penalty goal, or field goal) in this 10-minute period secures a win for the scoring team, and the game ends at that point. If the scoring event is a try, no conversion is attempted. If no further scoring occurs, the game is drawn and each team receives one competition point.
However, during the finals series, where a winner must be found on the day, play continues in the second period of extra time until either team scores.
First experimented with in the 1997 split season's Super League Tri-series, the golden point rule has been used by the National Rugby League (NRL) since the 2003 NRL season, and also by the ARL for State of Origin series games, as 1-all draws in the 1999 and 2002 left no clear series winner, though on both occasions Queensland retained the Shield as they had won the preceding series (1998 and 2001 respectively. The first golden point in State of Origin was scored in the 2004 series, when Shaun Timmins kicked a field goal for NSW to win the opening match of that series 9-8. In the opening match of the 2005 State of Origin series, a Brett Kimmorley (NSW) pass was intercepted by Matthew Bowen (QLD) in the 83rd minute to give Queensland Game One.
In 2012, the golden point's merits were again being debated when Australian rugby league broadcaster, the Nine Network's director of sport said "there is a definite spike in the viewing audience when there is golden point. I can't give the figures, but they're significant."
Golden point is also applied to the Tri-Nations final. The format follows that of the NRL finals series: a five-minute period of play followed by a brief pause and then if no points have been scored a second period that continues until points are scored.
The Challenge Cup, Europe's most prestigious knock-out tournament, operates under the golden point rule and also follows the NRL Finals system. One extra half of five minutes is played, and should neither team have scored any more points in that time, a second period commences until one of the teams scores again, thus winning the game. This does not happen in the final. If the final is drawn then the teams have a replay at a neutral ground. This was first applied in 2009, when the Castleford Tigers defeated Halifax RLFC in extra time during the fifth round of the competition. Brent Sherwin kicked a drop goal in the 82nd minute to advance Castleford to the quarterfinals. The second being Warringtons stand off Lee Briers kicking a drop goal to see them through to the Semi Finals against Hull KR. The rule was used for a third time in the 2014 competition when Rangi Chase scored a drop goal in the 83rd minute to send Salford City Reds through 37-36 at Hull FC in the third round.
The golden point rule is not applied to the Super League. If two teams are drawing at the end of eighty minutes, the match is declared a draw, and the two sides share a point each. Friendlies may apply the golden point rule, depending on the format of the tie.
- ABC News (2003-03-05). "NRL approves golden point rule". ABC News. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- The Telegraph (2002-11-21). "NRL to introduce "golden point"". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- BBC Sport (2003-05-07). "State of Origin gets golden point". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- Ricketts, Steve (16 August 2012). "TV chiefs to get say in the golden point of contention". The Courier-Mail. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
- Dave Hadfield (2006-11-26). "Australia 16 New Zealand 12: Lockyer laps up golden finish". The Independent. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- "Castleford 35-34 Halifax". news.bbc.co.uk (BBC Sport). 2009-05-09. Retrieved 2009-05-09.