New South Wales Rugby League

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New South Wales Rugby League (NSWRL)
National Rugby League logo
SportRugby league
Formerly known asNew South Wales Rugby Football League
Instituted1907; 117 years ago (1907)
ChairDave Trodden
Number of teams413 senior clubs
(across 33 leagues)

The New South Wales Rugby League (NSWRL) is the governing body of rugby league in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory and is a member of the Australian Rugby League Commission. It was formed in Sydney on 8 August 1907[1] and was known as the New South Wales Rugby Football League (NSWRFL) until 1984. From 1908 to 1994, the NSWRL ran Sydney's, then New South Wales', and eventually Australia's top-level rugby league club competition. The organisation is responsible for administering the New South Wales rugby league team.

New South Wales Rugby League clubs[edit]

Current New South Wales members[edit]

The following clubs are the direct full member clubs of the NSWRL.

Sydney Rugby League Club
First season Final season
Balmain Tigers 1908 season 1999 season
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 1935 season Still in top division
Canberra Raiders 1982 season Still in top division
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 1967 season Still in top division
Eastern Suburbs/Sydney City/Sydney Roosters 1908 season Still in top division+
Illawarra Steelers 1982 season 1998 season
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 1947 season 1999 season*
Newcastle Knights 1988 season Still in top division
Newtown Jets 1908 season 1983 season
North Sydney Bears 1908 season 1999 season*
Parramatta Eels 1947 season Still in top division
Penrith Panthers 1967 season Still in top division
St. George Dragons 1921 season 1998 season
South Sydney Rabbitohs 1908 season Still in top division+
Western Suburbs Magpies 1908 season 1999 season*
  • = Balmain Tigers and Western Suburbs Magpies merged after 1999 season to form Wests Tigers
  • = Illawarra Steelers and St George Dragons merged after 1999 season to form St George Illawarra Dragons
  • = Manly Warringah Sea Eagles and North Sydney Bears merged after 1999 season to form Northern Eagles which demerged after the 2002 season

+ = South Sydney Rabbitohs were evicted from the competition after the 1999 season and returned for the start of the 2002 season following a successful court battle. + = Sydney Roosters were initially called Eastern Suburbs Roosters from the 1908 season until the 1994 season, then called Sydney City Roosters from the 1995 season until the 1999 season.


The New South Wales Rugby Football League was responsible for the introduction of rugby league into New South Wales in 1907. Since that time the NSWRFL has built a rich tradition at all levels of the game.[according to whom?] Great names and great games illuminate the League's growth since 1907 up to the present day.[according to whom?] The NSWRFL was formed in August 1907, when player discontent with the administration of the New South Wales Rugby Union, over rejection of compensation payments for injuries and lost wages, led to a breakaway movement. Key figures in the new movement were James Joseph Giltinan, legendary cricketer Victor Trumper, Alex Burdon, Peter Moir, Labor politician Henry Hoyle, George Brackenreg and Jack Feneley. The first rugby league game in New South Wales was played on 17 August 1907, in which New Zealand defeated New South Wales Rugby League team 12–8.

The Sydney premiership was started on 20 April 1908. Nine teams contested the initial season. These were the nine teams:

The NSWRFL premiership was continued on the successful basis of the first competition in 1908. In 1929 Jersey Flegg was appointed to the position of president of the NSWRFL and in 1941 he became chairman of the Australian Rugby League Board of Control. At the time of his death in 1960, aged 82, he was still serving in these roles.

When NSWRFL president Flegg died in 1960, Bill Buckley replaced him and also became boss of the Australian Rugby League, a position he remained in from 1960 until his death in 1973. In 1973 Kevin Humphreys was appointed President of New South Wales Rugby League (NSWRL) and Chairman of Australian Rugby League (ARL). Under him State of Origin was introduced.

In 1983 Humphreys was succeeded in these positions by Ken Arthurson. Under Arthurson the clubs in the NSWRL expanded outside the borders of the state and even the country until in 1994, after administering its 87th consecutive premiership season, the NSWRL was replaced by the Australian Rugby League as club football's peak administrative body.

Notwithstanding the hand over of control of the game at the elite level across Australia to the commission, the NSWRL did retain responsibility for both the administration of the New South Wales rugby league team in State of Origin series, as well as day-to-day management of the state-based New South Wales Cup second-tier premiership, as well as junior representative competitions and divisional leagues throughout NSW and the ACT. It did so in conjunction with the NSW Country Rugby League before their merger in 2019. In a similar way, the rival Queensland Rugby League retained responsibility for that state's Origin team and lower tier competitions.

Royal Agricultural Society Shield[edit]

The Royal Agricultural Society Shield, or RAS Shield was the New South Wales Rugby League (NSWRL)'s first premiership trophy. It was presented to each year's premiership winning rugby league team; the first to win three successive titles would take permanent ownership of the shield. The Eastern Suburbs club achieved this feat winning premierships in 1911, 1912 and 1913.

The hand crafted silver and oak designed shield was donated to the NSWRL by the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales in its first year of competition.[citation needed]

Leading journalist Claude Corbett wrote in Sydney, Sun, newspaper on, 1 May 1914, "The Royal Agricultural Society Shield, which was presented at the inception of the League's first grade competition has been won outright by Eastern Suburbs, who upset all calculations by winning the premiership three years in succession. The club has presented the shield to their captain, Dally Messenger, 'as a token of appreciation of his captaincy'."[citation needed]

In 1929, Jersey Flegg was appointed to the position of president of the NSWRFL.

Midway through the 1909 season, Edward Larkin was appointed full-time secretary of the NSWRFL.[2]

J.J. Giltinan Shield[edit]

In 1951, the NSWRFL originated the J.J. Giltinan Shield, following his death in 1950. This trophy was awarded to the premiers of the NSWRFL competition, being named after one of the founding fathers of the NSWRFL and rugby league in Australia. The trophy remains today, being awarded to the minor premiers of the National Rugby League competition.

Following Jersey Flegg's death in 1960, Bill Buckley was made the NSWRFL's new president.

In 1967 the NSWRFL grand final became the first football grand final of any code to be televised live in Australia. The Nine Network had paid $5,000 for the broadcasting rights.[3]

In 1973, NSWRFL boss Kevin Humphreys negotiated rugby league's first television deal with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.[4] The NSWRFL had commenced a very popular and successful mid-week competition in 1974, originally known as the Amco Cup, but later as the Tooth Cup and the National Panasonic Cup. The success of this competition, which included teams from both Brisbane and New Zealand, ultimately created pressure for further expansion in the NSWRFL competition.[citation needed]

In 1980, the NSWRFL President Kevin Humphries, who had been chairman of the League since 1973, was instrumental in the establishment of the State of Origin series between teams representing the NSWRFL and Queensland Rugby League (QRL). The immediate success of this series, which remains the premier representative competition in Australia, and the overriding success of the Queensland team further pressured the NSWRFL to expand the club competition outside the boundaries of the state.[citation needed]

Sydney suburban teams came and went throughout the NSWRFL's history but it was not until 1982 that the competition included expansion outside of the Sydney area. This corresponded with the adoption of commercial sponsorship of the competition for the first time, the Winfield Cup. The two new inclusions were from the Australian Capital Territory – the Canberra Raiders – as well as a team from the southern New South Wales region – the Illawarra Steelers.

Winfield Cup[edit]

The Winfield Cup trophy remains a permanent symbol of one of the game's most successful eras. Cast in bronze by Alan Ingham, it was the game's ultimate prize for the duration of the Winfield sponsorship from 1982 to 1995.

Based on John O'Gready's world famous photograph of Norm Provan (St George) and Arthur Summons (Wests) after the 1963 Grand Final, the trophy represented the premiership pinnacle for players in the Winfield Era.

The Winfield Cup captured these and many other enduring things about League in its primary image, "The Gladiators" and the famous trophy, like the J.J. Giltinan Shield, remains an important part of the game's heritage.

The League's name was changed in 1984 to the New South Wales Rugby League and Ken Arthurson became the new chairman. In 1988, two Queensland teams joined the competition, with the inclusions of the Brisbane Broncos and the Gold Coast-Tweed Giants seeing the game move beyond the outer borders of New South Wales. At the same a team from the Hunter region of New South Wales was included, with the return of a Newcastle franchise. Their return was the end of an 81-year wait in the wilderness and this time around the franchise was badged the Newcastle Knights.

In 1990, the NSWRL introduced a salary cap system to even the playing field of teams in the Winfield Cup.[5]

The Winfield Cup competition was handed over to the control of the Australian Rugby League for the 1995 season, with the inclusion of teams from North Queensland, Western Australia and New Zealand. This period of expansion created tremendous success for the competition and rugby league in general. Over three million fans attended competition matches in the 1995 season and this figure remained the record for a single season attendance until 2009.[citation needed] The 2010 NRL season now holds the record for highest aggregate attendance, with a total of 3149927.[citation needed]

The Knock On Effect NSW Cup[edit]

The Knock On Effect NSW Cup (formerly known as NSW Cup, VB NSW Cup, Intrust Super Premiership and Canterbury Cup NSW) is the States's top-tier competition and clubs run as direct feeders to NRL sides. Canterbury of New Zealand have naming rights from Season 2019 to Season 2020.

Country Rugby League[edit]

On 24 August 2018, the NSWRL and CRL announced that they had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which would involve formal discussions in relation to a possible merger of the two organisations. This would result in Rugby League in NSW being governed by one body for the first time in more than 80 years. In October 2019 CRL merged with the NSWRL after the NSWRL agreed a new constitution and the CRL voted to wind up its affairs immediately. The decisions made on 19 October and merger mean that the aim of a unified administration of the sport in NSW was achieved over a year ahead of time.[6]

National Rugby League Clubs[edit]

New South Wales is home to the following National Rugby League teams:

Club Location Home Ground(s) & Capacity First season
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Sydney (Belmore) Stadium Australia (82,500), Belmore Sports Ground (19,000) 1935
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks Sydney (Cronulla) Endeavour Field (20,000) 1967
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Sydney (Brookvale) Brookvale Oval (23,000) 1947
Newcastle Knights Newcastle (New Lambton) Newcastle International Sports Centre (33,000) 1988
Parramatta Eels Sydney (Parramatta) Western Sydney Stadium (30,000) 1947
Penrith Panthers Sydney (Penrith) Penrith Stadium (22,000) 1967
South Sydney Rabbitohs Sydney (Redfern) Stadium Australia (82,500) 1908
St. George Illawarra Dragons* Sydney (Carlton),
Jubilee Oval (20,500),
Wollongong Showground (20,000)
Sydney Roosters Sydney (Moore Park) Sydney Football Stadium (45,000) 1908
Wests Tigers* Sydney, (Campbelltown),
(Lilyfield), (Parramatta)
W. Sydney Stadium (30,000),
Leichhardt Oval (20,000), Campbelltown Stadium (18,000),
  • St. George Dragons joined in 1921, Illawarra Steelers joined in 1982. They merged in 1999 to form St. George Illawarra Dragons
  • Balmain Tigers and Western Suburbs joined in 1908. They merged in 2000 to form Wests Tigers.

Current Senior Competitions[edit]




* = Top-level Country leagues; Premiers eligible for Clayton Cup as best regional team in the state.


The NSWRL manages the New South Wales State of Origin team as well the NSW Residents, Jim Beam Cup, under-19s, under-17s and under-16s and Indigenous rugby league teams. These teams traditionally play against teams from the Queensland Rugby League.

City vs Country is an annual match that takes place between a City side selected by the NSWRL and a Country side selected by New South Wales Country Rugby League. It is played before the State of Origin series and is often referred to as a selection trial for the New South Wales Blues team.

The annual State of Origin series between the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons is the most popular sporting event in NSW. Sydney has hosted many State of Origin matches since the series began in 1980. The three-game series are held in Sydney and Brisbane with the first and third games in one city and the second in the other. These rotate every year, so if two games are played in Sydney one year, then those games are played in Brisbane the next.

Other activities[edit]

The NSWRL conducts a development academy from the NSW Institute of Sport facility at Narrabeen. This facility is actively involved in the conduct of competitions and carnivals involving junior league and schools based teams. The academy also conducts several camps, focusing on development as well as running the accreditation process for coaches, trainers, first aid and match officials.

Radio coverage is presented by Steele Sports who call two games of the Intrust Super Premiership each weekend. Steele Sports includes a large team from across Sydney: Alby Talarico (founder), Curtis Woodward (lead caller), Daniel Pettigrew (lead caller), Jack Clifton, Keith 'The chairman' Payne, Tony Dosen, Lewis Shepperd, Luke Potter and Matt French.

Hawkesbury Radio call Penrith Panthers matches while Alive FM call selected Wentworthville games. Each year, they host the Tom Brock Lecture in their headquarters.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ARL (2007). "Australian Rugby Football League Annual Report 2007" (PDF). Australian Rugby League. p. 2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 September 2009. Retrieved 15 July 2009.
  2. ^ Cunneen, Chris (2001). The best ever Australian Sports Writing. Australia: Black Inc. p. 321. ISBN 1-86395-266-7. Retrieved 19 February 2011.
  3. ^ Masters, Roy (4 October 2009). "Messenger can watch a better league broadcast in the US than south of the border". Brisbane Times. Retrieved 10 May 2009.
  4. ^ Rothfield, Phil (21 August 2012). "NRL now generates more money per minute than AFL". News Corp Australia. Retrieved 22 August 2014.
  5. ^ Middleton, David (2008). League of Legends: 100 Years of Rugby League in Australia (PDF). National Museum of Australia. p. 27. ISBN 978-1-876944-64-3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 May 2008.
  6. ^ "Country Rugby League merge with NSW Rugby League is official". Manning River Times. 23 October 2019. Retrieved 23 October 2019.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]