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National Rugby League (often referred to as the Telstra
Premiership for sponsorship purposes) is a professional
competition for rugby league clubs in Australia and
New Zealand, and is Australia's primary rugby league
competition. It is the world's most attended rugby
league competition and often considered the most competitive.
National Rugby League was formed in 1998 following
the merging of the Australian Rugby League and Super
League competitions, and is currently contested by
sixteen clubs. In a total of nine seasons, the title
has been won by seven teams: Brisbane Broncos, Bulldogs,
Melbourne Storm, Newcastle Knights, Penrith Panthers,
Sydney Roosters and Wests Tigers. The most successful
team are the current champions, the Brisbane Broncos,
who have won the title three times and are the only
team to have won the title more than once.
more details on this topic, see History of the National
1980s brought about much expansion to the New
South Wales Rugby League premiership, with new
teams Canberra and Illawarra being introduced
into the competition in 1982. Although this move
brought out more interest in the competition statewide
in New South Wales, it would spell the beginning
of the demise of some of the traditional Sydney-based
clubs. Following the 1983 season, foundation club
Newtown Jets were ultimately forced to withdraw
from the competition because of financial difficulties.
In 1988, another three teams were introduced in
the competition, including the Newcastle Knights
and two Queensland teams Brisbane Broncos and
Gold Coast-Tweed Giants. These new teams proved
to be much more successful both financially and
in popularity than their traditional counterparts
and paved the way towards a push for a more nationalised
game. This was further established in 1995, with
the Australian Rugby League inviting four more
teams from outside NSW to participate.
With twenty-two teams playing in two competitions
in 1997 crowd attendances and corporate sponsorships
were spread very thinly, and many teams found themselves
in financial difficulty. On September 23, 1997 the
ARL announced that it was forming a new company to
control the competition in 1998 and invited Super
League clubs to participate. On October 7 Rupert Murdoch
announced that he was confident that there would be
a single competition in 1998 and in the following
months the National Rugby League, jointly owned by
the ARL and News Limited, was formed.
was announced that the 1998 Season would have 20 teams
competing, 19 Super League/ARL teams and the Melbourne
Storm, who were owned by News Limited. Clubs on both
sides of the war were shut down. News decided to close
the Hunter Mariners and the financially ruined Western
Reds, who were $10million in debt at the end of 1997,
while the ARL decided to close down the South Queensland
Crushers, who were also in severe financial trouble.
At the end of 1998 News Limited decided to close down
the Adelaide Rams and the ARL closed down the Gold
Coast Chargers, even though they were one of the few
clubs to make a profit during the Super League war.
A Partnership Executive Committee administers the
agreement between the Australian Rugby League and
News Limited as well as making major financial decisions.
Three representatives from each party make up this
committee. A National Rugby League Board which is
commissioned by the Partnership Committee is comprised
of six delegates from each party is responsible for
administering the competition. Both bodies nominate
a Chairman to lead each board for a term of 12 months,
with one Chairman representing the Australian Rugby
League and one representing News Limited in any one
year. These roles reverse each year.
National Rugby League markets the premiership on behalf
of the clubs as well as organising the draw and finals
matches. Along with the Australian Rugby League, representative
matches and the World Sevens tournament are also promoted
by the National Rugby League as well. When the draw
is finalised, teams are responsible for controlling
and organsing their assigned home games. Clubs each
have their own organisational structure but are also
bound to the National Rugby League by a common set
of rules in club agreements.
Competition format and sponsorship
There are currently sixteen clubs in the National
Rugby League. Teams are divided into two equal
pools of eight at the competition of each season,
with each pool of equal strength based on that
season's results. During the course of the regular
season (which lasts from March to August) each
club plays a total of two games against teams
in the opposite pool, once at their home stadium
and once at that of their opponents for a total
of 16 games for each club. Teams play six of those
seven others in their own group just once during
the season, and play the remaining club twice.
In total, each team plays 24 games in the 25-week
regular season and a total of 192 games in a National
Rugby League season. Teams receive two points
for a win and one point for a draw. No points
are awarded for a loss. Teams are ranked by total
points, then points difference and then points
percentage. At the end of each season, the club
with the most points is declared minor premiers.
Qualification for finals series
Canberra Raiders and Newcastle Knights playing
at Canberra Stadium in 2005.The eight highest
placed teams then contest the finals series, which
is contested using the McIntyre System. This has
been for every National Rugby League season with
the exception of 1998. This system consists of
a number of knockout and sudden-death games over
four weeks between the top eight teams in August
and September until there are only two teams remaining.
These two teams then play in the Grand Final,
on the first Sunday of October. In the first week,
the top four seeds play at their respective home
grounds. From week two onwards, all finals matches
are scheduled to be played in Sydney, either at
Aussie Stadium or Telstra Stadium.
1998 the Grand Final was held at Sydney Football Stadium.
Since 1999 the Grand Final has been contested at Telstra
Stadium, the primary athletics venue during the 2000
Olympic Games held in Sydney. In June 2006, the NRL
announced that the National Rugby League Grand Final
will continue to be held at Sydney's Telstra Stadium
until at least 2012, when it will be considered to
be moved interstate if certain circumstances arose.
Since 2001, the National Rugby League has been sponsored
by Telstra. In the years beforehand, the premiership
was simply known as the "National Rugby League".
The list below details who the sponsors have been
and what they called the competition
National Rugby League
2001current: Telstra (NRL Telstra Premiership)
Competition rules and representative season
Main article: Salary cap
The National Rugby League adopted a salary cap based
on the Australian Football League model in the early
1990s. In the NRL, clubs found to have breached the
salary cap rules usually incur a fine. For example,
six clubs were fined for minor infractions in 2003.
These infractions are usually technical in nature
and can sometimes be affected by third-party factors
such as loss of sponsorship revenue affecting an allowance.
in mid-2002, the Bulldogs were found guilty of serious
and systemic breaches. In addition to a more substantial
fine, they were stripped of their competition points
accumulated to that date, and hence denied a place
in the finals. As the club had been leading the competition
table prior to the penalty's imposition, this was
a shattering outcome for the club and its fans. Furthermore,
in the 2006 pre-season the New Zealand Warriors revealed
that their former management had rorted the salary
cap in the 2004 and 2005 seasons. As a punishment
the club was stripped of four competition points for
2006 and fined $430,000 Australian dollars. They also
must play 2007 under a reduced salary cap.
As well as playing for their club in the National
Rugby League season, players are sometimes entitled
to play in a number of representative competitions
that are conducted at the same time. These competitions
include the one-off ANZAC Test and Country Origin
VS City Origin matches and the State of Origin series.
In order for a player to qualify for a representative
team in these competitions, they must firstly be eligible
to be chosen for the side. In recent times, these
qualification requirements have been relaxed which
has seen a number of players representing teams which
they would not have always been allowed to play for.
This has caused some controversy given that some players
have chosen to play for arguably weaker teams (hence
making it easier to be selected) despite only having
weak ties with that team both geographically and ancestrally,
most notably in the case of Australian-born Nathan
Fien being selected for New Zealand on the ground
that his great-grandmother was born in New Zealand.
A 2004 match between Brisbane Broncos and the Bulldogs
The National Rugby League premiership has ultimately
been revolutionised by television, with there being
a large shift away from daytime games to nightime
games over recent years to better suit the contracted
television networks Channel 9 and Foxtel. From 2001
onwards, the Grand Final has been held during the
evening of a Sunday night.
the admission of the Gold Coast Titans to the premiership
in 2007, the number of weekly games has risen from
seven to eight. Free to air broadcaster Channel 9
will broadcast a live game on Friday night in addition
to a delayed match that has been featured for some
years. A delayed Sunday match will also continue to
be shown on the network.
News Limited-begun Foxtel network which broadcast
its first rugby league matches during the 1997 Super
League season has broadcast the remaining National
Rugby League matches since the competition's inception
Each club in the National Rugby League has a "top
squad" of twenty-five players, which are signed
under the Salary Cap (as described above). By and
large, the players who play in National Rugby League
matches are sourced from these "top squad"s.
Occasionally during a season, however, the need may
arise for a club to use players outside these 25,
and in this case players are usually sourced from
the club's junior ranks (such as the relevant Premier
of the players in the National Rugby League are
of Australian origin, although there are increasing
numbers of both New Zealand and Pacific Island-born
players being selected by clubs. In recent years,
Polynesian players have made up 75 per cent of
junior representative teams in New South Wales.
English-born players in the National Rugby League
amount to very few, particularly when compared
to the significant number of Australian-born players
appearing in the European Super League. However
the few English players who appear in the National
Rugby League, such as Adrian Morley and Brian
Carney, have noted that the National Rugby League
provides a higher standard of rugby league than
is played in Europe.
players voted to be the best in each position at the
end of the season are honoured at the Dally M Awards,
with the player of the year awarded the Dally M Medal.
The man of the match in the Grand Final is awarded
the Clive Churchill Medal.
Bulldogs hold the record for the most consecutive
wins, having won 17 matches in a row between 31 March
2002 and 3 August 2002. The Parramatta Eels set the
records for the highest score and margin of victory
in a 744 victory over the Cronulla Sharks on
23 August 2003. The most victories achieved within
a season is 20, held jointly between the Parramatta
Eels in 2001, the Bulldogs in 2002 and the Melbourne
Storm in 2006. None of these teams went on to win
the Grand Final.
the first National Rugby League season in 1998, a
total of six players have topped the scorers list
in a season. However, the only player to have won
the title more than once is Hazem El Masri, the overall
top scorer in the National Rugby League's history,
having claimed the title in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006.
His tally of 342 points in 2004 remains the most points
scored by an invididual in a season.
Vagana's 130 tries scored across all nine seasons
of the National Rugby League makes him the most prolific
try scorer in the competition's history. Nathan Blacklock
holds the record for the most tries in a season, with
27 scored in 2001 for his team, the St. George Illawarra
players hold the record for the most points scored
in a game; Hazem El Masri, Andrew Johns and Matt Geyer
with 34 apiece. Only three players have scored five
tries in a game; Francis Meli, Jamie Lyon and Nigel
Warringah Sea Eagles
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