World Club Challenge

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World Club Challenge
Founded 1976
Region  Australia
Number of teams 2
Related competitions World Club Series
Super League
Current champions File:North Queensland colours.svg North Queensland Cowboys
(1st Title)
Most successful club(s) Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls
File:Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos
File:Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors
Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Sydney Roosters
Melbourne colours.svg Melbourne Storm
(3 Titles Each)
Television broadcasters Nine Network
Sky Sports
2016 World Club Series

The World Club Challenge is an annually held competition between the winners of the Australian NRL and the European 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 North Queensland Cowboys are the current champions, having defeated the Leeds Rhinos 38–4 in 2016.

The World Club Challenge is now the championship match for the World Club Series which began at the beginning of 2015. The World Club Series includes two other games, these games are exhibition matches before the main game, the World Club Challenge. 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.


1976–1999: Origin and development

The competition began so 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 twenty-two clubs from the Australian and European Super Leagues. 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.

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 didn't 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 National Rugby League season but in the early stages of the new Super League season.

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 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 will 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 just 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.

2015-present: 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 February 20–22, 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]

List of participants

  • excludes pool games in 1997
World Club Challenge Participants
Colors Club Established City League Titles (Last)
Bradford Bulls 1907 Bradford, West Yorkshire England Super League 3 (2006)
Brisbane colours.svg
Brisbane Broncos 1987 Brisbane, Queensland Australia NRL 2 (1997)
Canberra colours.svg
Canberra Raiders 1981 Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia NRL 0
Canterbury colours.svg
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 1934 Sydney, New South Wales Australia NRL 0
File:Hunter colours.svg
Hunter Mariners 1995 Newcastle, New South Wales Australia NRL 0
Leeds Rhinos 1870 Leeds, West Yorkshire England Super League 3 (2012)
Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 1946 Sydney, New South Wales Australia NRL 1 (2009)
Melbourne colours.svg
Melbourne Storm 1997 Melbourne, Victoria Australia NRL 3 (2013)
Newcastle colours.svg
Newcastle Knights 1988 Newcastle, New South Wales Australia NRL 0
File:North Queensland colours.svg
North Queensland Cowboys 1993 Townsville, Queensland Australia NRL 1 (2016)
Panthers colours.svg
Penrith Panthers 1966 Sydney, New South Wales Australia NRL 0
South Sydney colours.svg
South Sydney Rabbitohs 1908 Sydney, New South Wales Australia NRL 1 (2015)
File:St. George Illawarra colours.svg
St George Illawarra Dragons 1998 Sydney, New South Wales Australia NRL 1 (2011)
St Helens 1873 St Helens, Merseyside England Super League 2 (2007)
Eastern Suburbs colours.svg
Sydney Roosters 1908 Sydney, New South Wales Australia NRL 3 (2014)
Wests Tigers colours.svg
Wests Tigers 1999 Sydney, New South Wales Australia NRL 0
File:Widnes colours.svg
Widnes Vikings 1875 Widnes, Cheshire England Super League 1 (1989)
Wigan Warriors 1872 Wigan, Greater Manchester England Super League 3 (1994)

*capacity for rugby league games may differ from official stadium capacity.

World Club Challenge finals

18 teams have competed in the World Club Challenge with 12 teams being successful and being crowned world champions.

Year Winners Score Runners-up
1976 Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Eastern Suburbs Roosters 25–2 File:Saintscolours.svg St Helens
1987 File:Wigancolours.svg Wigan 8–2 Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
1989 File:Widnes colours.svg Widnes 30–18 Canberra colours.svg Canberra Raiders
1991 File:Wigancolours.svg Wigan 21–4 Panthers colours.svg Penrith Panthers
1992 Brisbane colours.svg Brisbane Broncos 22–8 File:Wigancolours.svg Wigan
1994 File:Wigancolours.svg Wigan 20–14 Brisbane colours.svg Brisbane Broncos
1997* Brisbane colours.svg Brisbane Broncos 36–12 File:Hunter colours.svg Hunter Mariners
2000 Melbourne colours.svg Melbourne Storm 44–6 File:Saintscolours.svg St Helens
2001 File:Saintscolours.svg St Helens 20–18 Brisbane colours.svg Brisbane Broncos
2002 Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls 41–26 Newcastle colours.svg Newcastle Knights
2003 Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Sydney Roosters 38–0 File:Saintscolours.svg St Helens
2004 Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls 22–4 Panthers colours.svg Penrith Panthers
2005 File:Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos 39–32 Canterbury colours.svg Bulldogs
2006 Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls 30–10 Wests Tigers colours.svg Wests Tigers
2007 File:Saintscolours.svg St Helens 18–14 Brisbane colours.svg Brisbane Broncos
2008 File:Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos 11–4 Melbourne colours.svg Melbourne Storm
2009 Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 28–20 File:Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos
2010 Melbourne colours.svg Melbourne Storm* 18–10 File:Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos
2011 St. George colours.svg St George-Illawarra Dragons 21–15 File:Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors
2012 File:Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos 26–12 Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
2013 Melbourne colours.svg Melbourne Storm 18–14 File:Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos
2014 Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Sydney Roosters 36–14 File:Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors
2015 South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney Rabbitohs 39-0 File:Saintscolours.svg St Helens
2016 File:North Queensland colours.svg North Queensland Cowboys 38-4 File:Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos
  • (1997*- Tournament)
  • (*- Melbourne Storm stripped of title)


Club Wins Last win Runners-up Last final lost Total finals
1 File:Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos 3 2012 4 2016 7
2 File:Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors 3 1994 3 2014 6
3 Melbourne colours.svg Melbourne Storm 3 2013 1 2008 4
4 Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Sydney Roosters 3 2014 0 N/A 3
5 Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls 3 2006 0 N/A 3
6 File:Saintscolours.svg St Helens 2 2007 4 2015 6
7 Brisbane colours.svg Brisbane Broncos 2 1997 3 2007 5
8 Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 1 2009 2 2012 3
9 File:North Queensland colours.svg North Queensland Cowboys 1 2016 0 N/A 1
10 South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney Rabbitohs 1 2015 0 N/A 1
11 St. George colours.svg St George Illawarra Dragons 1 2011 0 N/A 1
12 File:Widnes colours.svg Widnes Vikings 1 1989 0 N/A 1
13 Panthers colours.svg Penrith Panthers 0 N/A 2 2004 2
14 Wests Tigers colours.svg Wests Tigers 0 N/A 1 2006 1
15 Canterbury colours.svg Canterbury Bulldogs 0 N/A 1 2005 1
16 Newcastle colours.svg Newcastle Knights 0 N/A 1 2002 1
17 File:Hunter colours.svg Hunter Mariners 0 N/A 1 1997 1
18 Canberra colours.svg Canberra Raiders 0 N/A 1 1989 1
Country Wins
1  United Kingdom 12
2  Australia 11


City Stadium Years
1 England Leeds Elland Road 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010
2 England Bolton Macron Stadium 2001, 2003, 2007
3 England Huddersfield John Smiths Stadium 2002, 2004, 2006
4 England Leeds Headingley Carnegie Stadium 2012, 2013, 2016
5 England Wigan Central Park 1987, 1992
6 England Wigan DW Stadium 2000, 2011
7 Australia Sydney Sydney Cricket Ground 1976
8 England Manchester Old Trafford 1989
9 England Liverpool Anfield 1991
10 Australia Brisbane Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre 1994
11 New Zealand Auckland Mount Smart Stadium 1997
12 Australia Sydney Sydney Football Stadium 2014
13 England St Helens Langtree Park 2015



Year City Stadium Attendance
1994 Brisbane ANZ Stadium 54,220


Year City Stadium Attendance
1997 Auckland Mount Smart Stadium 12,000



The World Club Challenge has been sponsored sporadically since its formation with 7 different sponsors.

Period Sponsor Name
1987–1991 Foster's Foster's World Club Challenge
1992–1993 None World Club Challenge
1994–1996 MMI MMI World Club Challenge
1997–2004 None World Club Challenge
2005–2009 Carnegie Carnegie World Club Challenge
2010 Gillette Gillette World Club Challenge
2011 Probiz Probiz World Club Challenge
2012 Heinz Big Soup Heinz Big Soup World Club Challenge
2013 Probiz Probiz World Club Challenge
2014-2015 None World Club Challenge
2016-2018 Dacia Dacia World Club Challenge


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  2. Townsend, David (27 September 1992). "Just a Touch of the Old Dart". The Sydney Morning Herald. Australia: Fairfax Media. p. 47. Retrieved 13 February 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Hadfield, Dave (1998-09-23). "League proposes show in S Africa". The Independent. UK: Retrieved 2010-04-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Phil Gould (2006-02-05). "Humbling highlights Tigers' reliance on Benji". SMH. Retrieved 2009-05-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Langdon, Mark (2005-02-04). "Deadly Danny can get St Helens off to a flyer". The Racing Post. London, England: MGN LTD. Retrieved 2009-10-05.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. (2012-05-20). "World Club Challenge Expansion Working Party Group". Retrieved 2013-02-05.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. (2013-11-18). "World Club Challenge confirmed for Aust". Retrieved 2013-02-05.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Steve Mascord (2013-02-14). "World Club Challenge to be held in Australia". Canberra Times. Retrieved 2013-02-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>