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Rivalries in the National Rugby League

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


Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs vs Parramatta Eels

The rivalry between Canterbury and Parramatta is one of the fiercest in The NRL. The two clubs have been geographically close throughout their whole histories. In the 1980s, Canterbury and Parramatta both won four premierships each and played against each other in two grand finals (1984,1986). In the 1990s at the height of the super league war, Parramatta signed four of Canterbury's star players Jarrod Mccracken, Dean Pay, Jim Dymock and Jason Smith which helped Parramatta reach the finals for the first time in eleven years. In the 1998 preliminary final, Parramatta were winning against Canterbury 18-2 with less than 10 minutes to play when Canterbury staged one of the biggest finals comebacks defeating Parramatta 32-20 in extra time. In 2009, Parramatta defeated Canterbury in the preliminary final to cap off a remarkable run to the grand final. The crowd which attended the match was a non grand final record of 74,000 fans. Speaking of the rivalry in 2015, former Canterbury player James Graham said "As soon as I came to this club, I was told that they were the closest club to us and that there was no love lost between players and fans". Andrew Ryan who played for both clubs said "Both clubs do speak about the rivalry, in the change room and leading into the clashes, they always want to get the wood on their rival, I went for Canterbury when I was a kid, but then got my first opportunity in first grade to play for Parramatta. They place a huge amount of emphasis on the game. I think I was one of the only players to go the other way, a lot of players who had played for the Bulldogs played for Parramatta, not too many went the other way".[1][2][3][4]

North Sydney Bears vs Manly Warringah Sea Eagles

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 fiercest. Manly were admitted into the premiership in 1947 with North Sydney at the time being one of the main advocators for a team to be in Manly. In Manly's first season, most of the side was made up of former Norths players including captain Max Whitehead who played for Norths in their 1943 grand final defeat to Newtown. The intense feelings between the two sides continued over the next couple of decades fuelled as players switched between the two clubs. The biggest defection occurred in 1971 when Norths life member and one of the games greatest wingers Ken Irvine joined Manly. Former Manly and North Sydney player Phil Blake said of the rivalry "It was certainly a game you looked forward playing in. The ground was always packed and it was always a great afternoon". In 2016, Norths and Manly played their final competitive senior game against each other in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW competition where Norths won the match 32-18. Manly had announced earlier in the 2016 season that they would be merging their lower grade sides with the Blacktown Workers teams to become the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles. The only competitive games played between the two rivals as of 2017 are between the Norths and Manly Harold Matthews Cup, SG Ball and Jersey Flegg competitions.[5]

Sydney Roosters vs St. George Illawarra Dragons

The pre-match formalities taking place prior to the Dragons vs Roosters Anzac Day clash in 2018.

These two clubs traditionally play each other in the ANZAC Day clash.[6]

South Sydney Rabbitohs vs St. George Illawarra Dragons

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.

In 2018, both sides met for the first time in a finals match since 1984. After 80 tense minutes of absorbing action, Souths won a close semi final 13-12.[7]

Sydney Roosters vs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

The Sydney Roosters have a long-standing rivalry with fellow Sydney team, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs. Whilst both teams had crossed premiership paths in Grand Finals on four occasions. In 1938, Canterbury-Bankstown won their first premiership against Eastern Suburbs as what they were known as back then winning 19-6 at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Two years later in 1940, the sides met again with Easts winning the 1940 grand final 24-14. In 1980, Canterbury-Bankstown broke a 38-year premiership drought defeating Eastern Suburbs 18-4 at the Sydney Cricket Ground.[8][9]

In 2002, the Sydney Roosters won the 2002 NRL Premiership on the back of a 9-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.[10] In 2003, the Roosters proved themselves worthy of their Defending Premiers title when they defeated Canterbury in the Preliminary Final 28-18 in front of a sold out Aussie Stadium. In 2004, the Roosters defeated Canterbury 35-0 and fighting broke out in the stands during and after the game had been completed.[11] While the Roosters finished the regular season with the Minor Premiership, Canterbury defeated them in the Grand Final 16-13 after trailing 13-6 at half-time.

As of the 2019 NRL season, the last time the two clubs met in a finals game was the 2015 elimination final which the Sydney Roosters won 38-12 at the Sydney Football Stadium.[12]

St. George Illawarra Dragons vs Parramatta Eels

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.[13]

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.[14]

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.[15]

In the 2009 finals series, St George finished as minor premiers and faced a Parramatta side who finished 8th on the ladder. A week earlier at the same venue St George had defeated Parramatta 37-0 but in the finals game, Parramatta won 25-12 with Parramatta player Jarryd Hayne scoring a brilliant solo try. As of the 2018 season, this is the last time the two sides have played against each other in the finals.[16]

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles vs Parramatta Eels

Manly and Parramatta have built a fierce rivalry since the 1970s.[17] They met in the 1976 Grand Final in which Manly denied the Parramatta club a maiden premiership.[18] However, the Eels won both the 1982 and 1983 Grand Finals against Manly.[19] Since the 1983 grand final, Parramatta and Manly have only played against each other in one other finals game which was in 2005 when Parramatta finished as minor premiers and Manly finished in eighth place. Parramatta won the match 46-22.[20][21]

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles vs Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks

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.[22] Manly also defeated Cronulla 16-0 in the 1978 Grand Final replay after the original contest had ended in an 11-11 draw.[23] In 1996, Manly and Cronulla played each other in the 1996 preliminary final where Manly defeated Cronulla 24-0. The two clubs have not met in a finals match in the 22 years since then.[24]

South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Sydney Roosters

The rivalry between the Sydney Roosters and the South Sydney Rabbitohs rugby league teams is regarded as the fiercest in the NRL and the oldest continuing rivalry with both clubs founded in 1908 and both sides still competing as stand alone entities in The NRL.[6] 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.[25] In the final round of 2013 the Roosters defeated Souths to claim the Minor Premiership, a feat they repeated the following year. In 2014, Souths defeated the Sydney Roosters in the preliminary final to reach their first grand final in 43 years. The rivalry has also seen a number of player swaps over the years most notably with Ron Coote, Craig Wing, Bryan Fletcher, Chris Walker, Shannon Hegarty, Ashley Harrison, Luke Keary and Angus Crichton.[26] In 2018, the Sydney Roosters defeated Souths 12-4 in the preliminary final at Allianz Stadium which was the last game to be played at the venue. The crowd of 44,380 was also a ground record.[27]

Brisbane Broncos vs North Queensland Cowboys

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 vs Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks

One of the competition's most fierce 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.[3]

Parramatta Eels vs Penrith Panthers

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.[28] Since Penrith entered the competition in 1967, the two clubs have only met in finals twice. The last being in the 2000 season where Parramatta defeated Penrith 28-10 in the elimination final.

St. George Illawarra Dragons vs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

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.[29]

Bulldogs superstar Sonny Bill Williams walked out on the club just prior to a match against the Dragons.[30] The match also marked the first-grade debut of future Dally M Medallist Ben Barba.[31]

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles vs Melbourne Storm

This is regarded as the biggest rivalry in the modern era, and the two clubs met in the 2007 and 2008 Grand Finals.[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.[32]

As of the 2019 NRL season, the last finals match between the two clubs was the aforementioned 2012 preliminary final which Melbourne won 40-12 at AAMI Park.[33]

See also


  1. ^ "With the rivalry as fierce and healthy as ever, Canterbury and Parramatta go at it again this Friday in the battle of Sydney's west". Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  2. ^ "Bulldogs v Eels rivalry still strong". National Rugby League. 2012-07-11. Retrieved 2018-09-29.
  3. ^ a b "Top 10 Preliminary Final heartbreaks". National Rugby League. 2015-09-23. Retrieved 2018-09-29.
  4. ^ "Eels thunder into grand final". ABC News. 2009-09-25. Retrieved 2018-09-29.
  5. ^ "Sea Eagles and Bears Play Their Final Game in Senior Rugby League as an Era Come to an End". Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  6. ^ a b "2015 NRL Draw Confirmed". Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust. 16 December 2014. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  7. ^ "Easy as 1-2-3: Reynolds sinks Dragons". National Rugby League. 2018-09-15. Retrieved 2018-09-29.
  9. ^ "NRL Grand Final: South Sydney Rabbitohs looking to join rugby league's greatest drought breakers".
  10. ^ Secret Bulldog Business The Sydney Morning Herald. 17 August 2002. Retrieved on 13 August 2006.
  11. ^ "Violence mars Roosters' demolition of Dogs". ABC News. 2004-03-26. Retrieved 2018-09-29.
  12. ^ "Sydney Roosters v Canterbury Bulldogs: Controversial try fuels massive win for minor premiers". Fox Sports.
  13. ^ "The pre-grand final wedding of '77". National Rugby League. 2011-04-27. Retrieved 2018-09-29.
  14. ^ "Barrett, Marsh both plead guilty". ABC News. 2005-07-12. Retrieved 2018-09-29.
  15. ^ "Fanatics". Fanatics - Home of the Australian Sports Fan - Est. 1997. Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  16. ^ "Eels shock Dragons in finals boilover". ABC News. 2009-09-13. Retrieved 2018-09-29.
  17. ^ "Vote: Best Manly Sea Eagles and Parramatta Eels players of rugby league's modern era". Fox Sports. 4 March 2015. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  18. ^ Ferguson, Shawn Dollin and Andrew. "NSWRFL 1976 - Grand Final - Rugby League Project". Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  19. ^ a b Curtis Figon and Anthony Difederico (12 April 2017). "Australia's most heated rivalries". Inside Sport. Nextmedia. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  20. ^ "How Manly and Parramatta are More Similar Than They'd Ever Admit". Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  21. ^ Ferguson, Shawn Dollin and Andrew. "NRL 2005 - Qualif Final - Rugby League Project". Retrieved 2018-09-29.
  22. ^ "Sharks and Sea Eagles' bitter rivalry four decades in the making". The Daily Telegraph (Sydney). News Corp. 20 September 2013. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  23. ^ Ferguson, Shawn Dollin and Andrew. "NSWRFL 1978 - Grand Final Rep. - Rugby League Project". Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  24. ^ "Sharks and Sea Eagles Bitter Rivalry Four Decades in the Making". Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  25. ^ Swanton, Will. Shove thy neighbour: Souths rule the roost The Sydney Morning Herald. 21 August 2005. Retrieved on 13 August 2006.
  26. ^ "South Sydney Rabbitohs Sydney Roosters NRL 2018: Why I hate the Roosters | Fox Sports". Retrieved 2018-09-29.
  27. ^ Press, Australian Associated (2018-09-22). "NRL: Roosters beat Rabbitohs to reach the grand final against Melbourne". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-09-29.
  28. ^ Ferguson, Shawn Dollin and Andrew. "NRL 2009 - Round 25 - Rugby League Project". Retrieved 2018-09-29.
  29. ^ "". Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  30. ^ "Sonny Bill Williams Leaves Bulldogs for France". Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  31. ^ Bulldog Ben Barba hopes to play with bodyguard Sonny Bill Williams, The Australian, 12 July 2012
  32. ^ "The Lowdown : Storm v Sea Eagles". Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  33. ^ Melbourne Storm thrash Manly Sea Eagles in 2012 NRL preliminary final Herald Sun