Rivalries in the National Rugby League

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This is a list of rivalries in the National Rugby League:

Traditional rivals[edit]

South Sydney Rabbitohs v Sydney Roosters[edit]

The rivalry between the Sydney Roosters and the South Sydney Rabbitohs rugby league teams is regarded as the fiercest in the NRL.[1] The rivalry increased after 1950 due to conflict between junior territories, and escalated once more in the 1990s with the increased financial success of the Roosters eclipsing the decreasing funds of the Rabbitohs. In 2005, the Rabbitohs broke a ten-year, thirteen-game losing streak to the Roosters in a close 17–16 match.[2] The two clubs have also faced off six times in various Grand Finals, more Grand Final meetings than any other two clubs.

North Sydney Bears vs Manly Warringah Sea Eagles[edit]

Prior to the ill-fated Northern Eagles joint venture from 2000 to 2002, the rivalry between Manly and foundation club Norths was arguably one of rugby league's most harsh. Manly had a superior overall head-to-head record over Norths having won 73 of their 123 games compared to just 47 for Norths with 3 draws.[3]

Sydney Roosters v St. George Illawarra Dragons[edit]

See also: Club ANZAC Game

These two clubs traditionally play each other in the ANZAC Day clash.[1]

these games are usually won by the dragons and then when the games are played in later rounds which are won by the Roosters.

South Sydney Rabbitohs v St. George Illawarra Dragons[edit]

The Rabbitohs and Dragons met in several Grand Finals many times throughout their history, and shared the same geographical area that is Sydney's inner-southern suburbs. The Charity Shield was contested between these two clubs throughout the 1990s; in 2002 it was revived after Souths were readmitted into the competition. This match is always played as a pre-season fixture. Until 2005, the match was played at the Sydney Football Stadium; from 2006 onwards the match is played at ANZ Stadium, the Rabbitohs' home ground.[citation needed]

Sydney Roosters v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs[edit]

The Sydney Roosters have a long-standing rivalry with fellow Sydney team, the Canterbury Bulldogs. Whilst both teams had crossed premiership paths in Grand Finals on four occasions, the most significant chapter came when the Sydney Roosters won the 2002 NRL Premiership on the back of a 10-game winning streak. This was the same year the premiership favourite Bulldogs were stripped of 37 points due to systematic breaches of the salary cap in the 2001 and the 2002 seasons.[4]

After the 2004 Grand Final the rivalry between both teams settled down. However, since 2006, the rivalry has once again re-ignited with players and officials from both clubs trading blows against each other. The Roosters during this time acquired four of the Bulldogs first grade players; Braith Anasta (2006), Nate Myles (2007), Mark O'Meley (2008) and Willie Mason (2008). All four have played representative rugby league and all except Nate Myles were a part of the 2004 Bulldogs premiership winning team.[citation needed] Former Canterbury player Sonny Bill Williams returned to the NRL with the Roosters in 2013, five years after walking out on the Bulldogs.

St. George Illawarra Dragons v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs[edit]

St George Illawarra has a fierce rivalry with neighbour the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs. The Bulldogs were founded in 1935, 14 years after St George. St. George inflicted a premiership record 91-6 defeat of Canterbury in 1935 but Canterbury enjoyed premiership success first in 1938, and St George in 1941. However, St.George recorded 11 straight premierships in the years following (1955–1966). It was also Canterbury who put an end to their Premiership run in 1967, when they beat them by a point in the preliminary final to face the Rabbitohs in the Grand Final. Since then, both clubs inflicted Premiership defeats on the other, St George defeating the Bulldogs in their last Grand Final success in 1979, Canterbury returning the favour in 1985.[5]

Bulldogs superstar Sonny Bill Williams walked out on the club just prior to a match against the Dragons.[6] The match also marked the first-grade debut of future Dally M Medallist Ben Barba.[7]

St. George Illawarra Dragons v Parramatta Eels[edit]

The rivalry between St. George and Parramatta stretches back to 1977 when St. George and Parramatta played out the first ever drawn Grand Final result. The Eels, seeking their first ever premiership after having finished on top of the ladder at the end of the regular season, were beaten 22–0 in the replay by the Dragons, which won its first premiership since 1966.[citation needed]

There have recently been some controversial matches between the Dragons and the Eels. Firstly, in Round 18, 2005, the Eels won 40–14 in a match which saw Trent Barrett and PJ Marsh trade blows after Marsh's crude charge-down attempt at Barrett, sparking an all-in brawl whilst the Eels' Wade McKinnon sprinted to score a match-turning 80-metre try.[8] The return match, although less controversial, saw a Dragons' 25–22 victory in Round 24 which allowed the two teams to share equal first place on the ladder at season's end (the Eels' superior percentage meant they won the minor premiership from the Dragons).

A less-memorable match saw no points scored between the two teams in Round 13, 2006 in the first 70 minutes of play before the Eels slotted a field goal with nine minutes remaining, before the Dragons struck back with two one-pointers to take a 2–1 lead. The Dragons then scored a try through Matt Cooper with mere seconds remaining on the clock to claim an 8-1 victory.[9]

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Parramatta Eels[edit]

Manly and Parramatta have built a fierce rivalry since their entries to the competition.[10] They met in the 1976 Grand Final in which Manly denied the Parramatta club a maiden premiership.[11] Parramatta would get some revenge though, going on to defeat Manly in both the 1982 and 1983 Winfield Cup Grand Finals.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks[edit]

This rivalry has been dubbed the "Battle of the Beaches", and they met in a brutal Grand Final in 1973 which was described as the dirtiest and toughest Grand Final of them all.[12] Manly also defeated Cronulla 16-0 in the 1978 Grand Final replay after the original contest had ended in an 11-11 draw.[13]

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Newcastle Knights[edit]

Since the mid-1990s, Manly built a rivalry with the Newcastle Knights club. In many ways this mirrors the Manly/Wests clashes where class distinction is used to fuel the perceived underdogs, in this case the working class city of Newcastle. In 1997, both Manly and Newcastle fought out the decider, with Newcastle winning 22–16. A controversial match in 2006 saw Knights captain Andrew Johns charged and suspended after an outburst at match officials.[14] Manly won this game 16–14.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Sydney Roosters[edit]

The Sea Eagles won their first premiership in 1972 defeating the Eastern Suburbs Roosters 19–14 in the Grand Final at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Manly's two tries on the day are still disputed by Roosters fans and players alike. Their first try by club captain Fred Jones was awarded despite Jones appearing to drop the ball over the try line, while their second scored by Ray Branighan came from an apparent forward pass from prop forward Bill Hamilton. As the game ended with both teams scoring two tries each, Roosters fans feel had these not been awarded to Manly by referee Keith Page the result would have gone their way.

The two clubs faced off again in the 2013 NRL Grand Final, with the Sydney Roosters coming out with a 26–18 win.[15]

Sydney Roosters v Brisbane Broncos[edit]

Since the 2000 NRL Grand Final, won by the Broncos 14–6, the Roosters and Broncos have built on a rivalry which continues today. In the grand final rematch in 2001, which the Roosters won 20–18, Brad Fittler was booked for striking Scott Prince, after which Fittler was suspended for the first time in his first-grade career. In the 2002 preliminary final, played on the Roosters home ground (Sydney Football Stadium) despite the match being earmarked as a Broncos home game, the Roosters won 16–12, and went on to win the premiership. It was the last game for Broncos' winger Lote Tuqiri until 2010.

Between 2002 and 2010 inclusive, these two teams played each other in the traditional Good Friday match.[citation needed]

Local derbies[edit]

Brisbane Broncos v North Queensland Cowboys[edit]

Between 1999 and 2006 inclusive, these two clubs were the only clubs from Queensland playing in the National Rugby League. In the early days, Brisbane would always beat North Queensland either in Brisbane or Townsville where the Cowboys are based.

They met in the 2015 NRL Grand Final on October 4 at ANZ Stadium. This game is often regarded as the best grand final ever with Jonathan Thurston kicking a field goal in golden point to win the Cowboys first ever premiership.

St. George Illawarra Dragons v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks[edit]

One of the competition's most fiercest rivalries is between the St. George Illawarra Dragons and the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, which share the same geographic region. The Sharks were viewed as St George's "little brother" from 1967 to 1998 [1]. The St George Dragons and now the St George Illawarra Dragons have enjoyed more success than the Sharks, who remained premiership-less since their inception in 1967 until 2016 when they won 14-12 against the Melbourne Storm, while the Dragons managed to win their first title after eleven years in the competition, with the defunct St George winning fifteen titles. In fact, since the merged Dragons entered the competition in 1999, both the Dragons and Sharks have finished higher than another six times apiece. The rivalry increased in 2005 when they met in a final at a sold out WIN Stadium; the Dragons winning 28–22. Cronulla finished the 1999 season as minor premiers, but the Dragons beat them 24-8 in the preliminary final to progress to the 1999 NRL Grand Final at the Sharks' expense. The Dragons trailed 8–0 at halftime.[citation needed]

Brisbane Broncos v Gold Coast Titans[edit]

This rivalry was built based on the closeness of Brisbane and the Gold Coast, being almost 100 km apart from each other. The Gold Coast Titans' entry to the competition in 2007 saw the number of Queensland teams in the NRL raised back to three. The Broncos previously enjoyed a strong record over local rivals the Gold Coast Chargers from 1988 to 1998; both were the inaugural Queensland teams to enter the competition. Financial problems forced the Chargers to fold at the end of 1998, returning as the Titans in 2007.

The first match between the Titans and Broncos was played at Suncorp Stadium, despite being earmarked as a Titans home game, on April 13, 2007.[citation needed]

The rivalry increased in 2009 when the two teams met during the 2009 finals. The Titans, on their home ground were playing their first ever final after just three years in competition, but the Broncos won 40-32; a late comeback from the Titans stalling when Israel Folau scored an intercept try winning the game for the Broncos.

Parramatta Eels v Penrith Panthers[edit]

In 2002, the Eels thrashed the Panthers 64–6, this coming after a season in which Parramatta finished first on the ladder and Penrith last. But they would not meet again until Round 26, 2003, when the Panthers, in front of a then-record crowd defeated the Eels 40–22 denying the Eels a place in the finals (Parramatta had to win by 28+ points). Penrith went on to win the premiership that year. Round 17, 2009 saw a Panthers win by 38–34 in which the lead changed several times, before the Eels recorded a huge 48-6 win in the penultimate round of the 2009 season.[citation needed]

South Sydney Rabbitohs v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs[edit]

These two sides faced each other in the 2014 Grand Final, the first grand final the Rabbitohs had competed in for 43 years. Because the match was being played at ANZ Stadium, the home ground of both sides, it was the most watched NRL Grand Final in history. In the first tackle, South Sydney Lock, Sam Burgess fractured his cheekbone in what was believed to be his last game for the Rabbitohs. However, Burgess continued to play the next 79 minutes of the Grand Final and was awarded the Clive Churchill Medal. The Rabbitohs won the match 30–6.[citation needed]

The following year, the two sides played each other in the annual Good Friday match. With ten minutes left on the clock, Canterbury halfback, Trent Hodkinson kicked a field goal and gave his side the lead, 17-16. In the last few minutes, South’s halfback Adam Reynolds went for a field goal to level the scores but missed. However, Canterbury front-rower and captain James Graham attempted to charge down the kick but instead hit Reynolds’ legs and forced him to the sideline for several matches. Despite the charge down being unintentional, Souths were awarded a penalty goal, giving them a controversial victory of 17-18. Graham was banned for several weeks due to verbal abuse towards the referee and as the match officials were walking off, several Bulldogs supporters pegged water bottles at them, causing one official to slip and break his shoulder.

More recent rivals[edit]

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Melbourne Storm[edit]

This rivalry started in 2005 when Manly and Melbourne met during a top-of-the-table clash in round three.[citation needed]

The two clubs met in the 2007 NRL Grand Final with the Storm coming out on top 34-8.[16]

The two teams would meet in the Grand Final again in 2008, this time Manly claiming a record-breaking 40–0 win over the Storm who were without suspended captain Cameron Smith. Manly led only 8–0 at halftime but piled on 32 unanswered points in the second half to claim a famous victory.[17]

In Round 25 of the 2011 season, Manly met Melbourne at Brookvale Oval in what has since become known as the "Battle of Brookvale". A fight broke out between the two teams in the 24th minute which resulted in Glenn Stewart (Manly) and Adam Blair (Melbourne) being sent to the sin-bin. On their way off the field the pair started again and were joined by both teams racing 50 metres to get involved with even members of Melbourne's interchange bench getting involved.[18] After the fight both Stewart and Blair were sent off and Manly went on to win 18-4.[19]

After Manly had gone on to win the 2011 premiership, both teams fought out the 2012 preliminary final in Melbourne. The Storm thrashed Manly 40-12, ending their chances of winning back to back titles. Melbourne would go on to win their second legitimate premiership after being stripped of their 2007 and 2009 premierships after the NRL discovered systematic salary cap rorting by the club.[20]

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Wests Tigers[edit]

Manly and the Wests Tigers have established a recent and spiteful rivalry in recent years.[21] This has stemmed from the rivalry between Manly and the Western Suburbs Magpies from 1947–1999, until the Magpies departed the competition to form the Wests Tigers in 2000 with the Balmain Tigers. In Round 1 of the 2010 season, the Tigers came from 20–4 down with 20 minutes remaining to win a controversial and spiteful encounter 26–22.[22]

The return bout proved just as controversial, with the Sea Eagles claiming some revenge for its season opening defeat with a 38–20 win in front of a record crowd in Gosford. Manly accused Tigers captain Robbie Farah of diving in an incident which led to Steve Matai being reported and subsequently sin-binned (he was later cleared by the NRL Judiciary).[23]

Early in the 2011 pre-season Manly and the Tigers squared off in a one-off charity Twenty20 cricket match to raise funds for the victims of the 2010–11 Queensland floods.[24] The Tigers, who were invited by the Sea Eagles to contest the match, accused Manly of "playing to win at all costs" and took the match less seriously than them. In their only NRL match in season 2011, the Tigers came from 12–0 down to win a close and controversial contest 14-12.[25]

Brisbane Broncos v Melbourne Storm[edit]

In 2004, the Storm claimed a 31–14 win in the second qualifying final, continuing the Broncos' finals woes. In 2005, the Storm repeated the dose in the same qualifying stage, this time claiming a 24–18 win.[citation needed]

The following year in 2006 the Broncos met the Storm in the grand final, which the Broncos won 15-8.

They met in the finals once again in 2007, with the back to back minor premiers Melbourne thrashing the Broncos 40-0 in the quarter final.[citation needed]

St. George Illawarra Dragons v Brisbane Broncos[edit]

St George and Brisbane Broncos contested the 1992 and 1993 Grand Finals, creating a fierce rivalry (see New South Wales Rugby League season 1993). The Illawarra Steelers also defeated the Broncos in the final of the 1992 Tooheys Challenge, following the Broncos' defeat of them in the Panasonic Cup Final of 1989. The Dragons have also defeated the Brisbane Broncos after the siren twice, once in 2003 at Suncorp Stadium with a successful penalty conversion by Mark Riddell. They repeated this feat in 2006 by winning 18–16 after a Brett Morris try was successfully converted by secondary kicker Aaron Gorrell.[citation needed]

Penrith Panthers v Sydney Roosters[edit]

The rivalry between these two sides arise from the Roosters recruiting Brad Fittler and Phil Gould from the Panthers in an attempt to turn the Roosters' fortunes around after almost a decade out of the finals. The pair had both won a premiership with the Panthers in 1991 and were looking to do the same at the Roosters. In fact, the Roosters failed to make the Grand Final with both Fittler (who was appointed captain during his arrival at the Roosters) and Gould, only for the Roosters to get there the year after Gould quit coaching the Roosters.

The two teams met in the 2003 NRL Grand Final, where the Roosters were the defending premiers and Penrith had finished last two seasons ago. Against all odds, the Panthers upset the more experienced Roosters 18–6.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "2015 NRL Draw Confirmed". Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust. 16 December 2014. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  2. ^ Swanton, Will. Shove thy neighbour: Souths rule the roost The Sydney Morning Herald. 21 August 2005. Retrieved on 13 August 2006.
  3. ^ Manly Sea Eagles - Head to Head
  4. ^ Secret Bulldog Business The Sydney Morning Herald. 17 August 2002. Retrieved on 13 August 2006.
  5. ^ rl1908.com
  6. ^ http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/sonny-bill-williams-leaves-bulldogs-for-france/story-e6freyki-1111117023499
  7. ^ Bulldog Ben Barba hopes to play with bodyguard Sonny Bill Williams, The Australian, 12 July 2012
  8. ^ Barrett, Marsh both plead guilty - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
  9. ^ Dragons beat Eels in soggy thriller - Sports News - FANATICS - Home of the Australian Sports Fan - Est. 1997
  10. ^ "Vote: Best Manly Sea Eagles and Parramatta Eels players of rugby league's modern era". Fox Sports. 4 March 2015. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  11. ^ 1976 NSWRFL Grand Final
  12. ^ "Sharks and Sea Eagles' bitter rivalry four decades in the making". The Daily Telegraph (Australia). News Corp. 20 September 2013. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  13. ^ 1978 NSWRFL Grand Final replay
  14. ^ David Middleton: 2006 Official Rugby League Annual, page 92
  15. ^ 2013 NRL Grand Final
  16. ^ 2007 NRL Grand Final
  17. ^ 2008 NRL Grand Final
  18. ^ Battle of Brookvale
  19. ^ NRL 2011 Rd.25 Manly vs Melbourne
  20. ^ http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/nrl/the-lowdown-storm-v-sea-eagles/story-e6frfgbo-1226478963555
  21. ^ Wests Tigers vs Manly Sea Eagles: preview | The Roar
  22. ^ Tigers stun Sea Eagles in thriller | NRL, Rugby League, NRL Scores, NRL Ladder | Fox Sports
  23. ^ Manly, Tigers play down bad blood
  24. ^ Tempers flare between Wests Tigers and Manly players at charity cricket match | thetelegraph.com.au
  25. ^ Wests Tigers defeat Manly Sea Eagles | The Roar

External links[edit]