World Club Challenge

Last updated

World Club Challenge
Current season or competition:
Rugby football current event.svg 2021 World Club Challenge
World Club Challenge logo.png
Sport Rugby league
Instituted1976;45 years ago (1976)
Inaugural season 1976
Number of teams2
NationsFlag of England.svg  England
Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia
Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand
Flag of France.svg  France
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada
Holders Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Sydney Roosters (5th title) (2020)
Most titles Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Sydney Roosters (5 titles)
Broadcast partner Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Flag of Ireland.svg Sky Sports
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Nine Network
Flag of New Zealand.svg Sky Sport
Related competition Super League
NRL
World Club Series

The World Club Challenge is an annual rugby league competition between the winners of the Australian NRL and the English Super League. The first such match was played in 1976 but did not become a regular fixture until the late 1980s. It was also punctuated in the 1990s by the Super League war but has been held every year since 2000. The Sydney Roosters are the current champions, defeating St Helens 20-12 in 2020.

Contents

Between 2015 and 2017, the World Club Challenge became the championship match for the 3 game, World Club Series. Two further exhibition matches were played prior to the main game.

As the World Club Challenge is a match between the premiers of the NRL and the Super League Champions, it has been possible for teams from New Zealand, France and Wales to win it as well as England and Australia, however, to date only English and Australian sides have competed in and won the World Club Challenge.

History

1976–1999: Origin and development

The competition began unofficially in 1976 as a match between Sydney's Eastern Suburbs and Premiership winners St. Helens. In 1987, another unofficial match took place when Wigan chairman Maurice Lindsay invited Manly-Warringah to Central Park. [1]

The first official World Club Challenge was between Widnes and Canberra in 1989. Three further matches, each involving Wigan, were staged in the early 1990s with the 1994 match being staged in Australia. This would be the last time for 20 years that this would happen.

If only we could see a genuine contest between Wigan and Brisbane – a World Club final. Alas, it will never happen. Oh sure, a game might be arranged, but logistics dictate that one side would be out of season, rusty or tired, and away from home.

The Sydney Morning Herald , September 1992 [2]

After the 1994 match logistical issues meant the concept was put on hiatus until it was revived in 1997.

With the outbreak of Australia's Super League War in 1995, the World Club Challenge was not staged again until 1997 when the competition was restructured to include the twenty-two clubs from the Australasian Super League and the European Super League. The twelve Australian Rugby League affiliated clubs did not take part. With six rounds in two hemispheres and $1,000,000 prize money, the competition was prohibitively expensive to stage and reportedly lost over $5,000,000. This, coupled with the poor ratings and attendances both in Australia and Europe, led to the competition being postponed for two seasons.

1997 tournament trophy World Club Challenge.JPG
1997 tournament trophy

Returning to a one-off match between the League champions in 1998, a World Club Challenge as a show-piece fixture at Ellis Park in Johannesburg was mooted. [3] However this did not eventuate.

2000–2014: Regular competition

When it was resurrected in 2000, the World Club Challenge was once more played between the winners of the premierships in Australasia and Europe. During this period it was contested annually in the United Kingdom in late January or early February, before the commencement National Rugby League season and the Super League season. Over this period Super League teams dominated the tournament winning 7 of 9 matches, and this led one Australian commentator to deride the competition, citing the British refusal to play the game outside of the UK, the effects of jet lag on an Australian team who arrived in England only a couple of days before the game, and wintry conditions as reasons for Australian team's poor performance. In addition, the games were being played at the beginning of the new season instead of at the end of the previous season, so the rosters of both sides had normally changed considerably, therefore the teams that took the field were not the ones that won the respective premierships. For these reasons, it was viewed as merely a pre-season warm up game by most Australasian teams and fans. [4] [5]

Since the 2009 tournament, its popularity has increased with stronger crowds and also with Australian teams taking the concept more seriously, Australian teams were arriving earlier to acclimatize the players and often organising warm up games with other super league sides and this created a much stronger showing and improved results. This also led to an increased movement to having the tournament staged in Australia. During this period, the matches were fixtured in late February, still before the commencement of the National Rugby League season but in the early stages of the new Super League season.[ citation needed ]

North Stand at Elland Road prior to the 2010 World Club Challenge.jpg
East Stand at Elland Road prior to the 2010 World Club Challenge.jpg
Elland Road prior to the 2010 edition of the tournament.

In mid-2012, a working party was established to look into the feasibility of conducting the match in either a neutral or Australian venue and also looking into the possibility of expanding the tournament. [6] In February 2013, the changes to the tournament were gaining momentum with the NRL and Super League agreeing to begin alternating the World Club Challenge tournament between the UK and Australia. These changes were finally confirmed in November 2013, with both parties agreeing that the 2014 World Club Challenge would be the first held in Australia since 1994. [7] In addition, commencing in 2015, the tournament would also be expanded to six teams. [8] The World Club Challenge return to Australia in 2014 was a success with a solid crowd numbers of over 31,000, with the Sydney Roosters defeating the Wigan Warriors 36–14. During the game, Sydney's Michael Jennings became the first player to score a hat trick of tries in a World Club Challenge.[ citation needed ]

2015–2017: World Club Series

In September 2014 it was announced that the World Club Challenge name would be changed to the World Club Series with six clubs participating – 3 from each league. [9] It took place between 20–22 February 2015, and featured three matches, the first and second essentially being two exhibition games and the final game being for the Championship trophy between the two respective premiers as in previous years. [10]

In October 2017 it was suggested that the 2018 Series could be scrapped completely based on the top Australian teams reluctance to travel to the UK for the 2017 series which resulted in the Series being scaled back to two games only. In particular the second game of the 2017 series only featured an invited team from the NRL. [11] In addition, the 2017 Rugby League World Cup being played in Australia at the end of 2017, meant that the preseasons for Australian teams was going to be unusually short ahead of the 2018 season and therefore did not want to make the trip to England for the 2018 series. The Melbourne Storm (2017 NRL Premiers) in particular, were reluctant to travel meaning the series was in danger of cancellation for the first time since the 1990s as it is the Storm that was playing in the World Club Challenge.

In June 2017, the Super League announced that the Australian city of Wollongong would host the first ever Super League game outside Europe. Wigan Warriors will "host" Hull F.C. in the game at WIN Stadium on Saturday, 10 February. [12] In addition and as part of this trip to Australia, Wigan and Hull would also play two exhibition games against South Sydney Rabbitohs and St George Illawarra Dragons respectively. These were separately arranged fixtures and not considered part of the World Club Series. [13] [14]

2018–Present: Return to single match format

On 14 November 2017, it was confirmed that Leeds Rhinos would travel to Australia to play Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park in Melbourne on 16 February 2018, and that the World Club Challenge would return to a one-game format for the first time since 2014. [13] The Storm defeated Leeds 38–4 to become World Club Champions for 2018 and also became the first club to hold the NRL Minor Premiership, NRL Premiership and World Club Challenege at the same time since the Sydney Roosters in 2014. [15]

On 22 February 2020, the Sydney Roosters became the first team to win back to back World Club Challenges, defeating St Helens 20–12 in the process. They also overtook Wigan in most challenges won with five. [16]

On 20th November 2020 it was announced that the 2021 World Club challenge, which was to be played between Melbourne Storm and St Helens would be postponed until late in 2021 owing to the push back of seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing pandemic itself preventing overseas travel. [17]

Statistics

List of Finals

18 teams have competed in the World Club Challenge with 12 teams being successful and being crowned world champions. Sydney Roosters have currently won more finals than any other team with 5. (Roosters first title was prior to the club’s name change from Eastern Suburbs)

SeasonWinnersScoreRunners-upVenueAttendance
1976 Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Eastern Suburbs 25 – 2 Saintscolours.svg St Helens Sydney Cricket Ground 26,865
1987 Wigancolours.svg Wigan 8 – 2 Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly Warringah Central Park 36,895
1989 Widnes colours.svg Widnes 30 – 18 Canberra colours.svg Canberra Old Trafford 30,786
1991 Wigancolours.svg Wigan (2)21 – 4 Penrith Panthers square flag icon with 2017 colours.svg Penrith Anfield 20,152
1992 Brisbane colours.svg Brisbane 22 – 8 Wigancolours.svg Wigan Central Park 17,764
1994 Wigancolours.svg Wigan (3)20 – 14 Brisbane colours.svg Brisbane QEII Stadium 54,220
1997 Brisbane colours.svg Brisbane (2)36 – 12 Hunter colours.svg Hunter Mariners Mt Smart Stadium 10,300
2000 Melbourne colours.svg Melbourne 44 – 6 Saintscolours.svg St Helens DW Stadium 13,394
2001 Saintscolours.svg St Helens 20 – 18 Brisbane colours.svg Brisbane Reebok Stadium 16,041
2002 Bullscolours.svg Bradford 41 – 26 Newcastle colours.svg Newcastle Knights Kirklees Stadium 21,113
2003 Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Sydney Roosters (2)38 – 0 Saintscolours.svg St Helens Reebok Stadium 19,807
2004 Bullscolours.svg Bradford (2)22 – 4 Penrith Panthers square flag icon with 2017 colours.svg Penrith Kirklees Stadium 18,962
2005 Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds 39 – 32 Canterbury colours.svg Canterbury-Bankstown Elland Road 37,028
2006 Bullscolours.svg Bradford (3)30 – 10 Wests Tigers colours.svg Wests Tigers Kirklees Stadium 19,207
2007 Saintscolours.svg St Helens (2)18 – 14 Brisbane colours.svg Brisbane Reebok Stadium 23,207
2008 Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds (2)11 – 4 Melbourne colours.svg Melbourne Elland Road 33,204
2009 Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly Warringah 28 – 20 Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Elland Road 32,569
2010 Melbourne colours.svg Melbourne 18 – 10 Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Elland Road 27,697
2011 St. George Illawarra colours.svg St. George Illawarra 21 – 15 Wigancolours.svg Wigan DW Stadium 24,268
2012 Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds (3)26 – 12 Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly Warringah Headingley Stadium 21,062
2013 Melbourne colours.svg Melbourne (2)18 – 14 Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Headingley Stadium 20,400
2014 Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Sydney Roosters (3)36 – 14 Wigancolours.svg Wigan Sydney Football Stadium 31,515
2015 South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney 39 – 0 Saintscolours.svg St Helens Langtree Park 17,980
2016 North Queensland colours.svg North Queensland 38 – 4 Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Headingley Stadium 19,778
2017 Wigancolours.svg Wigan (4)22 – 6 Cronulla colours.svg Cronulla-Sutherland DW Stadium 21,011
2018 Melbourne colours.svg Melbourne (3)38 – 4 Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Melbourne Rectangular Stadium 19,062
2019 Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Sydney Roosters (4)20 – 8 Wigancolours.svg Wigan DW Stadium 21,331
2020 Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Sydney Roosters (5)20 – 12 Saintscolours.svg St Helens Totally Wicked Stadium 16,108

1 Melbourne stripped of title due to salary cap breaches

Team Performance

TeamWinnersRunners-upYears wonYears runner-up
Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Sydney Roosters 501976, 2003, 2014, 2019, 2020
Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors 441987, 1991, 1994, 20171992, 2011, 2014, 2019
Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos 352005, 2008, 20122009, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2018
Melbourne colours.svg Melbourne Storm 312000, 2010, 2013, 20182008
Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls 302002, 2004, 2006
Saintscolours.svg St Helens 252001, 20071976, 2000, 2003, 2015, 2020
Brisbane colours.svg Brisbane Broncos 231992, 19971994, 2001, 2007
Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 1220091987, 2012
Widnes colours.svg Widnes Vikings 101989
St. George colours.svg St. George Illawarra Dragons 102011
South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney Rabbitohs 102015
North Queensland colours.svg North Queensland Cowboys 102016
Penrith Panthers square flag icon with 2017 colours.svg Penrith Panthers 021991, 2004
Canberra colours.svg Canberra Raiders 011989
Hunter colours.svg Hunter Mariners 011997
Newcastle colours.svg Newcastle Knights 012002
Canterbury colours.svg Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 012005
Wests Tigers colours.svg Wests Tigers 012006
Cronulla colours.svg Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 012017

Wins by Competition

LeagueWinnersYears won
Flag of Australia (converted).svg National Rugby League / NSWRL / Super League 141976, 1992, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014,

2015, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2020

Flag of England.svg Super League / First Division 131987, 1989, 1991, 1994, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007,

2008, 2012, 2017

The Treble

The Treble, in Australian rugby league, involves winning the World Club Challenge, Grand Final, and Minor Premiership with in the same season. [18]

NB: In British rugby league, "the treble" refers to winning the Super League Grand Final, League Leaders Shield, and Challenge Cup, however British teams are still listed here who qualify by the Australian definition.

To date the teams that have held the three titles at once are as follows:

ClubYearsTitles
Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Eastern Suburbs Roosters 1975/76 1975 NSWRFL Grand Final, 1975 Minor Premiership, 1976 World Club Challenge
Brisbane colours.svg Brisbane Broncos 1992 1992 NSWRL Grand Final, 1992 Minor Premiership, 1992 World Club Challenge (b)
Brisbane colours.svg Brisbane Broncos 1997 1997 Super League (Australia) Grand Final, 1997 Super League Minor Premiership, 1997 World Club Championship Final (a)
Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls 2001/02 2001 Super League Grand Final, 2001 League Leaders Shield, 2002 World Club Challenge
Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls 2003/04 2003 Super League Grand Final, 2003 League Leaders Shield, 2004 World Club Challenge
Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos 2004/05 2004 Super League Grand Final, 2004 League Leaders Shield, 2005 World Club Challenge
Saintscolours.svg St Helens 2006/07 2006 Super League Grand Final, 2006 League Leaders Shield, 2007 World Club Challenge
St. George Illawarra colours.svg St. George Illawarra Dragons 2010/11 2010 NRL Grand Final, 2010 Minor Premiership, 2011 World Club Challenge
Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Sydney Roosters 2013/14 2013 NRL Grand Final, 2013 Minor Premiership, 2014 World Club Challenge
Melbourne colours.svg Melbourne Storm 2017/18 2017 NRL Grand Final, 2017 Minor Premiership, 2018 World Club Challenge
Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Sydney Roosters 2018/19 2018 NRL Grand Final, 2018 Minor Premiership, 2019 World Club Challenge

(a) The 1997 World Club Challenge was a tournament that occurred concurrently with the respective RL seasons, not after them.
(b) In 1992 the World Club Challenge was played at the conclusion of the respective seasons.
NOTE: no English teams feature prior to 1997 as there was no Grand Final played in England at this time.

Venues

CityStadiumYears
1 Flag of England.svg Leeds Elland Road 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010
2 Flag of England.svg Wigan DW Stadium 2000, 2011, 2017, 2019
3 Flag of England.svg Horwich Macron Stadium 2001, 2003, 2007
4 Flag of England.svg Huddersfield John Smiths Stadium 2002, 2004, 2006
5 Flag of England.svg Leeds Headingley Carnegie Stadium 2012, 2013, 2016
6 Flag of England.svg Wigan Central Park 1987, 1992
7 Flag of England.svg St. Helens Langtree Park 2015, 2020
8 Flag of Australia (converted).svg Sydney Sydney Cricket Ground 1976
9 Flag of England.svg Manchester Old Trafford 1989
10 Flag of England.svg Liverpool Anfield 1991
11 Flag of Australia (converted).svg Brisbane ANZ Stadium 1994
12 Flag of New Zealand.svg Auckland Ericsson Stadium 1997
13 Flag of Australia (converted).svg Sydney Allianz Stadium 2014
14 Flag of Australia (converted).svg Melbourne AAMI Park 2018

Attendance

Highest

YearCityStadiumAttendance
1994 Brisbane ANZ Stadium 54,220

Lowest

YearCityStadiumAttendance
1997 Auckland Ericsson Stadium 12,000

Records

Sponsors

The World Club Challenge has been sponsored sporadically since its formation with 9 different sponsors.

PeriodSponsorName
1987–1991 Foster's Foster's World Club Challenge
1992–1993NoneWorld Club Challenge
1994–1996 MMI MMI World Club Challenge
1997–2004NoneWorld Club Challenge
2005–2009 Carnegie Carnegie World Club Challenge
2010 Gillette Gillette World Club Challenge
2011ProbizProbiz World Club Challenge
2012 Heinz Big Soup Heinz Big Soup World Club Challenge
2013ProbizProbiz World Club Challenge
2014–2015NoneWorld Club Challenge
2016–2017 Dacia Dacia World Club Challenge
2018 Downer Downer World Club Challenge
2019 Betfred Betfred World Club Challenge

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