|April 2008 marks 100 years since competition for the first NSWRL Premiership commenced. While rugby football had been played in Australia since the
1860s it was only one hundred years ago that Rugby League - Australia's first
professional football code - was established.|
The early years
By the turn of the century some clubs paid their players, and these clubs
eventually formed their own code of rugby, known as Rugby League. Rugby
Union players were not paid until the late 20th century. A meeting was held at
Bateman's Crystal Hotel in Sydney on 8 August 1907 to organise professional
rugby in Australia.
The meeting resolved that a New South Wales Rugby League (NSWRL) should
be formed, to play the Northern Union rules which differed slightly from those
of Rugby Union. This was the first time that "Rugby League" was used in the
name of an organising body. Players were soon recruited for the new game,
despite the threat of immediate and lifetime expulsion from the Rugby Union.
It was not until 9 January 1908 that Australia's first Rugby League club, the
Glebe Dirty Reds, was established and the first season of Rugby League
competition was played.
Following WWI, Rugby League quickly took over from Rugby Union as the
most popular form of football in New South Wales and Queensland and the
decision by the Rugby Union authorities to suspend play throughout the war is
often cited as one of the prime reasons for the traditional dominance of Rugby
Rugby League today
From this humble beginning, Rugby League has grown into a national and
international competition. It is the dominant code in Queensland and New
South Wales and competes with the Australian Football League (AFL) for the
title of the most popular football code in the country.
Since the 1980s a more national competition has evolved with 16 teams
playing in National Rugby League competition in 2008. One of the biggest
and most fiercely emotional competitions in contemporary Australian sport is
the State of Origin series played once a year between New South Wales (the
Blues) and Queensland (the Maroons). A series of three matches, it is now one
of Australia's premier sporting events. The attendance record for a single
match of Rugby League is 107,558 for a game between Melbourne Storm
and St George Illawarra Dragons at the Telstra Stadium, Sydney in 1999.