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The New South Wales Rugby League premiership was the first rugby league football club competition established in Australia. Run by the New South Wales Rugby League (initially named the New South Wales Rugby Football League) from 1908 until 1994, the premiership was the state's and later the country's elite rugby league competition. For most of the premiership's history it was contested by clubs from the state of New South Walesmarker only, but later grew into a nation-wide competition, eventually leading to the competition being played under the auspices of the Australian Rugby League in 1995. Despite this name, the 1995 and 1996 Australian Rugby League Premierships competitions were still administered by the Board and staff of the New South Wales Rugby League.

1908: Rugby league premiership in Sydney

The inaugural New South Wales Rugby Football League (NSWRFL) premiership began in 1908, and was made up of eight Sydney-based teams and one team from Newcastle. Cumberland joined the competition after the first round, meaning that they played one game fewer than the rest of the field for the season. Still known as the "foundation clubs" today, these nine teams battled against one another during the 1908 season, with South Sydney taking the first premiership honours after beating Eastern Suburbs in the Final.

Club Traditional Colours Years Contested Matches Seasons
Played Won Drew Lost Win/Loss Played Premiers Minor Premiers Runners-Up
Balmain 1908 - 1999 1705 871 68 766 53.08% 92 11 7 9
Cumberland 1908 8 1 0 7 12.50% 1 0 0 0
Eastern Suburbs 1908 - current 1880 995 67 818 54.71% 98 12 16 14
Glebe 1908 - 1929 297 163 6 128 55.89% 22 0 1 4
Newcastle 1908 - 1909 20 9 0 11 45.00% 2 0 0 0
Newtown 1908 - 1983 1305 583 59 663 46.93% 76 3 6 7
North Sydney 1908 - 1999 1665 678 71 916 42.85% 92 2 2 1
South Sydney 1908 - 1999
2002 - current
1813 940 45 828 53.09% 96 20 17 13
Western Suburbs 1908 - 1999 1691 734 49 908 44.86% 92 4 5 8

1982 - 1994: Expansion of the premiership

Over the decades since the NSWRFL competition started, Sydney suburban teams came and went throughout its history but it was not until 1982 that the competition saw significant expansion outside of the Sydney area. The two new inclusions were from the Australian Capital Territorymarker - the Canberra Raiders - as well as a team from the southern New South Wales region - the Illawarra Steelers. This corresponded with the adoption of commercial sponsorship of the competition for the first time, seeing it become the Winfield Cup (named after the popular cigarette brand).

The NSWRFL had also commenced a very popular and successful mid-week competition in 1973, originally known as the Amco Cup, but also as the Tooth Cup and the National Panasonic Cup. The success of this competition, which included teams from both Brisbanemarker and New Zealand ultimately created pressure for further expansion of the NSWRL competition. In 1984, the New South Wales Rugby Football League changed its name to New South Wales Rugby League.

In 1988, for the very first time, two Queenslandmarker teams joined the competition, with the inclusions of the Brisbane Broncos and the Gold Coast-Tweed Giants. This saw the premiership competition move beyond the outer borders of New South Wales. At the same time, as a result of mounting pressure from the central coast of New South Wales, a Newcastlemarker franchise was returned to the competition. Their return saw the end of an 86-year wait in the wilderness and this time around the team was badged the Newcastle Knights.

Club Traditional Colours Years Contested Matches Seasons
Played Won Drew Lost Win/Loss Played Premiers Minor Premiers Runners-Up
Annandale 1910 - 1920 153 25 6 122 18.30% 11 0 0 0
University 1920 - 1937 242 47 5 190 20.45% 18 0 0 1
St. George 1921 - 1998 1545 910 56 579 60.71% 78 15 15 12
Canterbury-Bankstown 1935 - current 1502 778 53 671 53.56% 71 8 6 8
Manly-Warringah 1947 - 1999
2003 - current
1261 719 35 507 58.41% 56 7 9 10
Parramatta 1947 - current 1321 608 38 675 47.46% 59 4 5 4
Cronulla-Sutherland 1967 - current 932 456 22 454 50.11% 39 0 2 3
Penrith 1967 - current 917 379 26 512 42.75% 39 2 2 1
Illawarra 1982 - 1998 396 153 13 230 40.28% 17 0 0 0
Canberra 1982 - current 606 323 9 274 54.04% 24 3 1 2
Brisbane 1988 - current 457 299 11 147 66.63% 18 5 4 0
Newcastle 1988 - current 446 234 14 198 54.04% 18 2 0 0
Gold Coast 1988 - 1998 246 53 9 184 23.37% 11 0 0 0

After mostly solid results were obtained by the expansion teams in 1988, there was increasing pressure for new inclusions into the competition. In 1995, some seven years later, the competition expanded further into Queensland, with the inception of the 'South Queensland Crushers' and the 'North Queensland Cowboys'. 1995 also saw a new team in Western Australia, the 'Western Reds', as well as a New Zealand-based team - the Auckland Warriors. The total number of teams in the competition was now twenty - the largest-scale rugby league competition ever in Australia. The premiership's new national outlook was further reflected in the governing body's name, with the New South Wales Rugby League transferring control of the competition to the Australian Rugby League (ARL).


Between 1912 and 1925 there was no semi-final system and a final was only played if two clubs finished level at the conclusion of the Minor Premiership. Souths won the 1909 premiership when Balmain forfeited in protest against the final being played as a preliminary match before a promotional game between the national Rugby League and Rugby Union sides. The 1937 season also featured no finals as the year was disrupted by the Kangaroos tour. Between 1926 and 1953 first played third and second played fourth and winners played off. If the minor premiers were defeated they had a right of challenge, but if they were not defeated there was no true "grand final."

From 1954 a mandatory grand final was introduced in which there was a knockout minor semi-final between third and fourth and a second-chance major semi between first and second. The winner of the major semi went to the grand final and a preliminary final was played between the winner of the minor semi and the loser of the major semi to decide who would meet the winner of the major semi.

In 1973 a final five was devised with the top team going straight into the major semi, the second and third teams playing a major preliminary semi, and the fourth and fifth playing a sudden-death minor preliminary semi. The top team played the winner of the major preliminary semi-final, whilst the winner of the minor preliminary semi played the loser of the major preliminary semi in the minor semi-final (which was played as before under the final four system.

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 from:1911 till:1912 text:"Eastern Suburbs" color:Roosters
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 from:1919 till:1920 text:"Balmain" color:Tigers
 from:1920 till:1921 text:"Balmain" color:Tigers
 from:1921 till:1922 text:"North Sydney" color:Bears
 from:1922 till:1923 text:"North Sydney" color:Bears
 from:1923 till:1924 text:"Eastern Suburbs" color:Roosters
 from:1924 till:1925 text:"Balmain" color:Tigers
 from:1925 till:1926 text:"South Sydney" color:Rabbitohs
 from:1926 till:1927 text:"South Sydney" color:Rabbitohs
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 from:1936 till:1937 text:"Eastern Suburbs" color:Roosters
 from:1937 till:1938 text:"Eastern Suburbs" color:Roosters
 from:1938 till:1939 text:"Canterbury-Bankstown" color:Bulldogs
 from:1939 till:1940 text:"Balmain" color:Tigers
 from:1940 till:1941 text:"Eastern Suburbs" color:Roosters
 from:1941 till:1942 text:"St. George" color:Dragons
 from:1942 till:1943 text:"Canterbury-Bankstown" color:Bulldogs
 from:1943 till:1944 text:"Newtown" color:Jets
 from:1944 till:1945 text:"Balmain" color:Tigers
 from:1945 till:1946 text:"Eastern Suburbs" color:Roosters
 from:1946 till:1947 text:"Balmain" color:Tigers
 from:1947 till:1948 text:"Balmain" color:Tigers
 from:1948 till:1949 text:"Western Suburbs" color:Magpies
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 from:1958 till:1959 text:"St. George" color:Dragons
 from:1959 till:1960 text:"St. George" color:Dragons
 from:1960 till:1961 text:"St. George" color:Dragons
 from:1961 till:1962 text:"St. George" color:Dragons
 from:1962 till:1963 text:"St. George" color:Dragons
 from:1963 till:1964 text:"St. George" color:Dragons
 from:1964 till:1965 text:"St. George" color:Dragons
 from:1965 till:1966 text:"St. George" color:Dragons
 from:1966 till:1967 text:"St. George" color:Dragons
 from:1967 till:1968 text:"South Sydney" color:Rabbitohs
 from:1968 till:1969 text:"South Sydney" color:Rabbitohs
 from:1969 till:1970 text:"Balmain" color:Tigers
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 from:1971 till:1972 text:"South Sydney" color:Rabbitohs
 from:1972 till:1973 text:"Manly-Warringah" color:Eagles
 from:1973 till:1974 text:"Manly-Warringah" color:Eagles
 from:1974 till:1975 text:"Eastern Suburbs" color:Roosters
 from:1975 till:1976 text:"Eastern Suburbs" color:Roosters
 from:1976 till:1977 text:"Manly-Warringah" color:Eagles
 from:1977 till:1978 text:"St. George" color:Dragons
 from:1978 till:1979 text:"Manly-Warringah" color:Eagles
 from:1979 till:1980 text:"St. George" color:Dragons
 from:1980 till:1981 text:"Canterbury-Bankstown" color:Bulldogs
 from:1981 till:1982 text:"Parramatta" color:Eels
 from:1982 till:1983 text:"Parramatta" color:Eels
 from:1983 till:1984 text:"Parramatta" color:Eels
 from:1984 till:1985 text:"Canterbury-Bankstown" color:Bulldogs
 from:1985 till:1986 text:"Canterbury-Bankstown" color:Bulldogs
 from:1986 till:1987 text:"Parramatta" color:Eels
 from:1987 till:1988 text:"Manly-Warringah" color:Eagles
 from:1988 till:1989 text:"Canterbury-Bankstown" color:Bulldogs
 from:1989 till:1990 text:"Canberra" color:Raiders
 from:1990 till:1991 text:"Canberra" color:Raiders
 from:1991 till:1992 text:"Penrith" color:Panthers
 from:1992 till:1993 text:"Brisbane" color:Broncos
 from:1993 till:1994 text:"Brisbane" color:Broncos
 from:1994 till:1995 text:"Canberra" color:Raiders

Past winners of the NSWRL Premiership

Season Grand Final Information Minor Premiers
Premiers Score Second
1908 South Sydney 14-12 Eastern Suburbs South Sydney
1909 South Sydney forfeit Balmain South Sydney
1910 Newtown 4-4 South Sydney Newtown
1911 Eastern Suburbs 11-8 Glebe Eastern Suburbs
1912 Eastern Suburbs Eastern Suburbs
1913 Eastern Suburbs Eastern Suburbs
1914 South Sydney South Sydney
1915 Balmain Balmain
1916 Balmain 5-3 South Sydney Balmain
1917 Balmain Balmain
1918 South Sydney South Sydney
1919 Balmain Balmain
1920 Balmain Balmain
1921 North Sydney North Sydney
1922 North Sydney 35-3 Glebe North Sydney
1923 Eastern Suburbs 15-12 South Sydney Eastern Suburbs
1924 Balmain 3-0 South Sydney Balmain
1925 South Sydney South Sydney
1926 South Sydney 11-5 University South Sydney
1927 South Sydney 20-11 St. George South Sydney
1928 South Sydney 26-5 Eastern Suburbs St. George
1929 South Sydney 30-10 Newtown South Sydney
1930 Western Suburbs 27-2 St. George Western Suburbs
1931 South Sydney 12-7 Eastern Suburbs Eastern Suburbs
1932 South Sydney 19-12 Western Suburbs South Sydney
1933 Newtown 18-5 Western Suburbs Newtown
1934 Western Suburbs 15-2 Eastern Suburbs Eastern Suburbs
1935 Eastern Suburbs 19-3 South Sydney Eastern Suburbs
1936 Eastern Suburbs 32-12 Balmain Eastern Suburbs
1937 Eastern Suburbs Eastern Suburbs
1938 Canterbury-Bankstown 19-6 Eastern Suburbs Canterbury-Bankstown
1939 Balmain 33-4 South Sydney Balmain
1940 Eastern Suburbs 24-14 Canterbury-Bankstown Eastern Suburbs
1941 St. George 31-14 Eastern Suburbs Eastern Suburbs
1942 Canterbury-Bankstown 11-9 St. George Canterbury-Bankstown
1943 Newtown 34-7 North Sydney Newtown
1944 Balmain 12-8 Newtown Newtown
1945 Eastern Suburbs 22-18 Balmain Eastern Suburbs
1946 Balmain 13-12 St. George St. George
1947 Balmain 13-9 Canterbury-Bankstown Canterbury-Bankstown
1948 Western Suburbs 8-5 Balmain Western Suburbs
1949 St. George 19-12 South Sydney South Sydney
1950 South Sydney 21-15 Western Suburbs South Sydney
1951 South Sydney 42-14 Manly-Warringah South Sydney
1952 Western Suburbs 22-12 South Sydney Western Suburbs
1953 South Sydney 31-12 St. George South Sydney
1954 South Sydney 23-15 Newtown Newtown
1955 South Sydney 12-11 Newtown Newtown
1956 St. George 18-12 Balmain St. George
1957 St. George 31-9 Manly-Warringah St. George
1958 St. George 20-9 Western Suburbs St. George
1959 St. George 20-0 Manly-Warringah St. George
1960 St. George 31-6 Eastern Suburbs St. George
1961 St. George 22-0 Western Suburbs Western Suburbs
1962 St. George 9-6 Western Suburbs St. George
1963 St. George 8-3 Western Suburbs St. George
1964 St. George 11-6 Balmain St. George
1965 St. George 12-8 South Sydney St. George
1966 St. George 23-4 Balmain St. George
1967 South Sydney 12-10 Canterbury-Bankstown St. George
1968 South Sydney 13-9 Manly-Warringah South Sydney
1969 Balmain 11-2 South Sydney South Sydney
1970 South Sydney 23-12 Manly-Warringah South Sydney
1971 South Sydney 16-10 St. George Manly-Warringah
1972 Manly-Warringah 19-14 Eastern Suburbs Manly-Warringah
1973 Manly-Warringah 10-7 Cronulla-Sutherland Manly-Warringah
1974 Eastern Suburbs 19-4 Canterbury-Bankstown Eastern Suburbs
1975 Eastern Suburbs 38-0 St. George Eastern Suburbs
1976 Manly-Warringah 13-10 Parramatta Manly-Warringah
1977 St. George 9-9
Parramatta Parramatta
1978 Manly-Warringah 11-11
Cronulla-Sutherland Western Suburbs
1979 St. George 17-13 Canterbury-Bankstown St. George
1980 Canterbury-Bankstown 18-4 Eastern Suburbs Eastern Suburbs
1981 Parramatta 20-11 Newtown Eastern Suburbs
1982 Parramatta 21-8 Manly-Warringah Parramatta
1983 Parramatta 18-6 Manly-Warringah Manly-Warringah
1984 Canterbury-Bankstown 6-4 Parramatta Canterbury-Bankstown
1985 Canterbury-Bankstown 7-6 St. George St. George
1986 Parramatta 4-2 Canterbury-Bankstown Parramatta
1987 Manly-Warringah 18-8 Canberra Manly-Warringah
1988 Canterbury-Bankstown 24-12 Balmain Cronulla-Sutherland
1989 Canberra 19-14 Balmain South Sydney
1990 Canberra 18-14 Penrith Canberra
1991 Penrith 19-12 Canberra Penrith
1992 Brisbane 28-8 St. George Brisbane
1993 Brisbane 14-6 St. George Canterbury-Bankstown
1994 Canberra 36-12 Canterbury-Bankstown Canterbury-Bankstown
  • 1909: Balmain refused to play the final in protest to the game being held as a curtain-raiser to a Kangaroos v Wallabies match. Souths played, kicked off, scored & were declared premiers. Many contend though that a 'gentlemans agreement' was reached to postpone the game to the following weekend - and the action undertaken by Souths in starting the match sparked a fierce and bitter rivalry between the clubs that continued for many decades.
  • 1910: Top two played off for the title. In the event of a drawn match, the superior record during the season secured the title, Newtown had compiled 23 competition points, Souths 22.
  • 1977-78: Drawn games requiring a replay.
  • 1989: The score was tied 14 all at normal full time - extra time was played to decide the winner.

See also


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