National Rugby League
The National Rugby League (NRL) is one of the most popular sporting competitions in Australia and, in recent times, New Zealand, consisting of fifteen teams playing rugby league football against each other.
- 1 Teams
- 2 History of the NRL
- 3 How the NRL works
- 4 NRL Premiers
- 5 See also
- 6 External link
- Canterbury Bulldogs (established: 1935)
- Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks (established: 1967)
- Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (established: 1947)
- Parramatta Eels (established: 1947)
- Penrith Panthers (established: 1967)
- St. George-Illawarra Dragons (established: 1999)
- South Sydney Rabbitohs (established: 1908)
- Sydney Roosters (established: 1908)
- Wests Tigers (established: 2000)
From Outside Sydney
- Brisbane Broncos (established: 1988)
- Canberra Raiders (established: 1982)
- Melbourne Storm (established: 1998)
- Newcastle Knights (established: 1988)
- New Zealand Warriors (established: 1995)
- North Queensland Cowboys (established: 1995)
To Be Admitted in 2007
The following teams have competed in the NRL at some stage since 1998, but have either been disbanded, or compete in a different form:
- Adelaide Rams: disbanded at the end of 1998
- Balmain Tigers: merged with Western Suburbs in 1999 to form Wests Tigers
- Gold Coast Chargers: disbanded at the end of 1998
- Illawarra Steelers: merged with St. George to form St. George-Illawarra Dragons in 1999.
- North Sydney Bears: merged with Manly to form Northern Eagles in 2000. Dropped out of Northern Eagles merger in 2002.
- Northern Eagles: reverted to Manly-Warringah in 2003 after North Sydney dropped out of the merger.
- St. George Dragons merged with Illawarra in 1999 to form St. George-Illawarra Dragons.
- Western Suburbs Magpies merged with Balmain to form Wests Tigers in 1999.
For teams competing prior to the NRL see:
History of the NRL
The Australian Rugby League competition ran from 1995 to 1997 and was the direct successor to the New South Wales Rugby League competition, which ran from 1908 to 1994. This competition consisted only of teams from metropolitan Sydney until 1982 when teams were added from Brisbane (1988), Canberra (1982), Gold Coast (1988) Illawarra (1982) and Newcastle (1988). With further expansion to Auckand, North Queensland and Perth (all in 1995) the ARL assumed control of the competition.
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 annonced 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.
One condition of the peace agreement between the ARL and News Limited was that there would be a 14 team competition in 2000. This led to the creation of merged teams (see above) and the removal of the South Sydney Rabbitohs from the competition for the year 2000. This move was highly controversial and on 11 November 2001 80,000 marched in protest at their continued exlusion.
South Sydney challenged the decision in the Federal Court claiming that the NRL agreement (which all clubs were required to sign) was exclusionary, intended to unfairly exclude South Sydney and breached the Trade Practices Act. Justice Paul Finn ruled that the agreement did not specifically exclude any club and dismissed the Rabbitohs claims for re-instatement into the national competition. Souths appealed this decision and were re-admitted into the competition in 2002.
2003-2005: Record Popularity
In 2005, the NRL reached record levels of popularity. Crowd average records were broken in 2003, 2004 and 2005,  and from 2004 to 2005 there was a 39% increase in sponsorship, a 41% increase in merchandise royalties and a 12% increase in playing participation. 
2005: More Legal Action
In 13 September 2005, the Seven Network began proceedings in the Federal Court in Sydney naming 22 parties (including the NRL) in a conspiracy to the shut down of the C7 pay television station.  C7 had unsuccessfully bid $72,000,000 per annum for the right to broadcast the NRL competition on pay television. After News Limited has re-signed these rights, C7 was left without a major sport to broadcast and subsequently ceased operation in March 2002. It is alleged that News Limited used its position as half-owner of the NRL to secure the rights. Jonathan Sumption, QC representing the Seven Network, has said
- It is inconceivable that News would have been able to get away with this if it had not controlled one, half the NRL, two, the leading pay TV broadcaster and three, the largest cable network in Australia. 
The case is being heard by Justice Ron Sackville. The Seven Network is seeking up to $1.1 billion in damages. Sumption also stated that
- Other alternative remedies (to stop Foxtel illegally acquiring sports) would be to make News and PBL divest Fox Sports or stop them buying AFL or NRL rights in a non competitive environment 
Although much structural re-organisation occurred 1995-1998, the NSWRL, ARL, Super League and the NRL are, by convention, considered to be a single continuous competition.
For example, the Brisbane Broncos have won five titles, two were in the NSWRL, one in Super League, and two in the present day NRL. Each of the these premierships carry an equal status, and do not need to be qualified. Playing records, such as points scored, do not differentiate between the various incarnations of the top level competiton.
How the NRL works
The fifteen NRL teams play each other in a rotating roster that lasts for twenty-six rounds, typically from the beginning of March through to September. This is known as the regular season.
The teams are divided into three groups of ostensibly equal strength, based on the previous year's standings. Each team plays the other teams within their group once (4 games), and the teams outside their group twice (20 games), for a total of 24 games and 2 byes.
This system has varied from year to year since 1988, due to frequent changes in the number of teams participating.
There is one round every weekend. Seven games occur in each round, usually on Friday night (7:30pm local time), Saturday (5:30 pm and two games at 7:30pm local time) and Sunday (2:30pm and two games at 3:00pm local time) during the regular season, with one team receiving the bye.
However, for two rounds during the season, three teams have the bye in the same round, at State of Origin time. Players involved in Origin games (held mid-week) cannot participate in club matches on the weekend before - teams who have supplied the bulk of players to the State of Origin series in the previous season will receive a bye at this time.
Points and ladder
The winner of each game per round is awarded two points on the League Ladder. The team with the bye is also awarded two points automatically. If a game is drawn between the two teams, each team is awarded one point each. (However, drawn matches are first subject to the golden point process, introduced in 2003.).
At the end of the regular season, the eight teams with the highest point totals on the ladder qualify for the finals. In the event of two or more teams sharing the same competition points, the finishing order is decided by points differential i.e. points scored during games minus points conceded.
Prior to 1995, however, a team could not be excluded from the finals system by points differential alone, in these cases, a mid-week playoff (or, if required, series of playoffs, such as in 1960) was held to determine the finalists.
This 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. In the first week, the top four seeds play at their respective home grounds. From Week Two onwards, all final matches are scheduled to be played in Sydney, however, some matches have been moved in special circumstances, to some controversy.
Since 1999 the Grand Final has been contested at Telstra Stadium, the primary athletics venue during the 2000 Olympic Games held in Sydney. From 1988 to 1998 the Grand Final was held at Sydney Football Stadium, and until 1987 was held at the Sydney Cricket Ground for around eighty years.
- 1998: Brisbane Broncos (defeated Canterbury Bulldogs 38-12)
- 1999: Melbourne Storm (defeated St. George-Illawarra Dragons 20-18)
- 2000: Brisbane Broncos (defeated Sydney Roosters 14-6)
- 2001: Newcastle Knights (defeated Parramatta Eels 30-24)
- 2002: Sydney Roosters (defeated New Zealand Warriors 30-8)
- 2003: Penrith Panthers (defeated Sydney Roosters 18-6)
- 2004: Canterbury Bulldogs (defeated Sydney Roosters 16-13)
- 2005: Wests Tigers (defeated North Queensland Cowboys 30-16)
- 2005 NRL Finals Series
- 2002 NRL Finals Series
- NRL records
- Australian Rugby League
- Super League (Australia)
- World Club Challenge