The NRL (National Rugby League) is the highest standard of professional rugby league football played in Australia. Also known as the Telstra Premiership, the league contains 15 teams in Australia and one from New Zealand. Being generally considered to be the most competitive league in rugby league, it is the single most watched rugby league competition in the world.

The league revolves around the sport of rugby league football. With rugby union also very popular in Australia, it is important to understand the differences between the two sports. Rugby league is played with 13 players opposed to 15 players in Rugby union and is generally regarded as producing a more demanding, fast-paced game for spectators. Another important rule in rugby league is the amount of tackles allowed during each string of possession. In Rugby union, there is no limit on the amount of tackles made whereas in Rugby league the team only gets six tackles to progress up the field before play is turned over.

Despite being the world’s top rugby league competition, it is a young organisation, with its inaugural league season taking place in 1998. The league was formed in response to the situation of Rugby league in Australia pre-1998 where 22 teams were competing in two different competitions. As a result, corporate sponsorship and crowd attendances were low. The ARL set formed a new company to control the competition and rectify these problems, this company eventually leading to the birth of the National Rugby League.


16 teams take part in the competition with the Sydney Roosters the only founding club still in the NRL today. This first league season was won by the Brisbane Broncos, beating the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 38-12 in the grand final. Today its 16 teams are spread out all over Australia, based in Greater Sydney, New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and in New Zealand also. To this day, only four of these teams (the New Zealand Warriors, Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, Gold Coast Titans and the North Queensland Cowboys) are yet to win at least one NRL Premiership

The competition operates a general league format. Twenty-six league matches take place, leading up to the end of September. Teams are awarded two points for a win and one for a draw. Teams on equal competition points at the end of the season are separated by points difference and percentage. The team with highest amount ofhe points at the end of the regular season is declared minor premiers.

When the regular season is completed, the eight highest placed teams compete in the finals series to determine the champions. This finals series is based on the McIntyre System which consists of a number of games between the eight teams through the months of August and September until there are only two left remaining. These two teams go onto to compete in the Grand Final at the end of September

The NRL Grand Final s considered to be the Super Bowl of Rugby League and it is amongst the most attended club championship events in sport, as well as being one Australia’s major sporting events. It is typically held in Sydney’s Stadium Australia on a Sunday evening. Like the Super Bowl, is normally preceded by an entertainment filled opening ceremony. It is tradition that an Australian Army helicopter delivers the NRL trophy shortly before kick-off.
The most recent Grand Final saw Melbourne Storm win their second NRL Premiership as they went on to defeat the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs on the 30th of September 2012 in a tense game that ended 14-4 in front of a massive crowd of 82,976 people at the ANZ Stadium (it was also the only NRL Grand Final in history to have a scoreless half). The Clive Churchill medal, awarded to the man of the match of the Grand Final, was given to halfback Cooper Cronk of Melbourne Storm.

The NRL known is also known for its salary caps on players. This was introduced by the NSWRL in 1990 as an attempt to even the playing field in Rugby League. As of 2013, a club is allowed a grant of $7.3 million which covers the minimum wage of $85,000 for twenty five players at a club. Despite the cap being actively policed, there have been several breaches of the cap throughout the 16 year history of the NRL.

Post by Greg Prichard, check out his other posts, for example this one about Brad Murray.