Rugby league in Victoria
|Rugby league in Victoria|
Melbourne tram in 2009 featuring Melbourne Storm advertising livery
|Governing body||Victorian Rugby League|
|First played||1914, Melbourne|
|Registered players||700 (total)
500 (adult), 200 (junior)
|Single match||87,161 (1994). State of Origin - Queensland v New South Wales (MCG, Melbourne)|
Rugby league football has been played and watched by people in the Australian state of Victoria since the early 20th century. While for most of its history there the game's popularity has been marginal due to Australian rules football's dominance in southern state, rugby league's popularity has increased in recent years, due mainly to the introduction of a professional Melbourne-based team in the national competition.
Professional clubs visited Victoria from New South Wales, but it was not until 1998 that the first professional club formed in Victoria, the Melbourne Storm, an expansion club to join the National Rugby League premiership.
The Australian Rugby League reports that over $23 million has been invested by the Melbourne Storm and its partners in promoting and developing rugby league in Victoria since 2005 and the club has visited more than 550 schools across the state. Participation has grown significantly since 2006, with 13 amateur clubs now playing in the state, according to the Victorian Rugby League and more expected for the 2009 competition.
Rugby football the predecessor code
Club rugby was formally organised in Victoria when the Melbourne Rugby Union (MRU) formed in 1888. Some of the 1888-89 New Zealand Native football team matches were played in Victoria and England also sent a touring team which both switched between rugby and Victorian rules (Australian rules football). Melbourne sent its first rugby football team to play in New South Wales in 1889, but the game more or less disappeared in the state.
The modern code of rugby league
In 1895, rugby football underwent a schism in England over the issues of expenses and payment to injured players. This led it to split into rugby union and rugby league. Luring professional sportsmen, the new code of rugby league arrived in Australia in 1907 and came to dominate the sporting scene in Queensland and New South Wales. However, it was not immediately introduced into Victoria, where the VFL, which paid players, was already increasingly popular. Rugby union, however, continued to be played in Victoria by a small number of amateurs.
The 1914 Great Britain Lions tour of Australia and New Zealand included a match in Melbourne, the first rugby league game to be played in the state. The match between England and New South Wales drew 12,000 spectators.
The Victorian Rugby League was running a rugby league premiership by the 1920s and also selected a representative Victorian XIII to tour domestically. In 1924 Victoria played against the visiting British Lions on the first game of their tour; losing 45-13 at Fitzroy Cricket Ground and lost again 47-18 against Toowoomba in Queensland.
The occasional New South Wales Rugby League Premiership match was taken to Melbourne over the following decades - the most notorious being in 1979 when Manly and Wests initiated their 'Fibros v Silvertails' battles.
The NSWRL had let Melbourne host a number of premiership games during the early 1990s. In 1991 the St Kilda Football Club unsuccessfully sought to have NSWRL games played at Moorabbin Oval, later the Sydney Tigers briefly played games at Princes Park in 1994. But attendances for Test matches and State of Origin games in the 1990s had been strong. The 1990 State of Origin played in Olympic Park, attracted a crowd of 25,000. Another 160,000 was attracted in three matches at the MCG (1994, 1995 and 1997).
In 1991 the first match of the Test series between New Zealand and Australia was played in Melbourne.
The first professional team emerges
In August 1991 the NSWRL began to express interest for its 1993 competition, and made a request to the Victorian Rugby League to put forward a proposal. The local league showed significant hesitation, indicating that the game had little support to build upon.
However during 1993 ARL Chairman Ken Arthurson made it clear that he remained positive about Melbourne and thought it had much to offer. Former Melbourne CEO Chris Johns said; "John and I had been with the Broncos from day one and we had learnt first-hand how the club had progressed in 10 years to become a 'super club'. Melbourne had three times the population of Brisbane and the people down there just love their sport".
Plans to enter Melbourne gained momentum in November 1994 when both the ARL and the organisers of the (then called) News Limited rebel competition both began initiatives to fast track their own teams in the Victorian capital. In 1996, the Australian Rugby League (ARL) decided to establish a Melbourne based team due to the high attendances at recent State of Origin matches. But in May 1997, Super League boss John Ribot pushed for a Melbourne based club in the Super League competition, which was the rival against the ARL competition. Former Brisbane Broncos centre Chris Johns became the CEO of the club and Ribot stepped down from head of the Super League to set up the club. The club would be fully owned by News Limited who had a position of influence through their ownership in the Herald Sun, with part of its strategy to use Melbourne's most popular newspaper to provide contra media exposure for the new club. In September 1997, Melbourne announced that Chris Anderson would be their foundation coach, and then the Super League announced that their new team would be named the Melbourne Storm and it would be based at Olympic Park Stadium.
The Melbourne Storm went on to win the 1999 NRL Premiership.
The new millennium
In 2006 the deciding game of the State of Origin drew 54,833 spectators at Telstra Dome. Also that season, Melbourne's television audience for the Storm's NRL grand final appearance was higher than Sydney's was for the Swans' second successive AFL grand final appearance.
The 2007 preliminary final between Parramatta and Melbourne Storm saw the largest ever crowd drawn by the Storm in Melbourne, 33,472. It was a larger than Manly's preliminary crowd of 32,611. The Storm went on to the Grand Final where they succeeded in their second premiership.
The opening round of the 2008 season saw 20,084 spectators watch the Storm defeat New Zealand Warriors in their first game at Telstra Dome. Melbourne finished the 2008 season with a home average attendance of 12,474, considerably larger than their 2007 average of 11,711. They recorded their largest crowd average ever in the 2010 season at 14,670. For the 2008 Rugby League World Cup, the only game in Melbourne against England drew a crowd of 36,297 at the Telstra Dome. This was the second highest attended game in the competition, surpassed only by the final, played in Brisbane that drew 50,559.
Over $23 million has been invested by the Melbourne Storm and its partners in promoting and developing rugby league in Victoria since 2005 and the club has visited over 550 schools across the state.
There are 11 amateur clubs in the state according to the Victorian Rugby League; 7 of the clubs field junior teams. This does not count the school teams who played as the undercard to Storm games prior to the under 20 competition.
Players such as Malo Feteirika, who is from New Zealand, and Gareth Widdop, from England, have come through the junior ranks in Melbourne. Melbourne Storm hopes to have some of its Melbourne-born and bred players making their senior debuts soon. 
Victorian Rugby League
Victorian Rugby League competitions
The three main competitions are the Melbourne Rugby League, the Central Highlands Rugby League and the Goulburn Murray Rugby League. Prior to 2008 and the introduction of the National Youth Competition, Melbourne Rugby League games were played as curtain raisers to senior Melbourne Storm games at Olympic Park.
The Victorian state team play in the Affiliated States Championship along with the other three affiliated states (South Australia, Northern Territory and Western Australia) plus the Australian Police and Australian Defence Force. In 2007 Victoria came fourth in the ARL Affiliated States Championships in Perth.
They won their first championship in 2009 
National Rugby League Teams
The National Rugby League (NRL) is Australia's top level competition for the sport of rugby league. The Melbourne Storm are Victoria's only side in the League, having been initially created on the initiative of Super League for inclusion in their competition in 1997. However they did not start playing until the NRL's commencement in 1998 and have since then become a powerful side, winning three consecutive minor premierships in 2006, 2007 and 2008. They have also won the premiership in 1999,2007,2009 and 2012.
However in 2010, the Storm were stripped of the 2007 and 2009 premierships and the 2006–2008 minor premierships.
They again won the minor premiership in 2011.
|Club||Location||Home Ground(s)||First season|
|Melbourne Storm||Melbourne ||AAMI Park (12 games) (31,500)||1998|
Among the Victorian-born players to play in the NRL have included:
In round 23 2012, Mahe Fonua became the first Victorian-born and bred player to play in the NRL when he made his debut for Melbourne Storm. He played his junior career for South East Titans (formerly Berwick Bulldogs) in the Victorian Rugby League. The only other junior Victorian players to date to graduate to the NRL have been Jeremy Smith (Melbourne Storm & St George Illawarra) who played for the Altona Roosters and English-born Gareth Widdop (Melbourne Storm) who also played for the Altona Roosters. Drury Low (Canberra Raiders) played for the Waverley-Oakleigh Panthers junior club.
The 2011 Melbourne Storm under-20 competition squad currently includes seven local Victorian juniors, namely Mahe Fonua, Matt Constantinou, Lucas Grech, Robbie Kurth, Young Tonumaipea, Herschel Gideon and Joseph Kamana. Also the 2011 SG Ball team is made up predominantly of local juniors from Melbourne.
See also↑Jump back a section
- "World class stadium for Storm a reality". sportsaustralia.com (SportsAustralia). 2007-03-05. Retrieved 2009-12-04.
- Heming, Wayne (2009-10-30). "Brisbane Broncos voted Australia's most popular football team". foxsports.com.au (AAP). Retrieved 2009-10-31.
- Sydney Morning Herald, 17 August 1914
- "Football: Rugby League Final". The Argus (Australia). 1923-09-07. p. 4. Retrieved 2009-12-04.
- Deane, Steve (2009-10-23). "Top 10 moments in Kiwi league". nzherald.co.nz (New Zealand: APN Holdings NZ Limited). Retrieved 2010-02-05.
- Collis, Ian and Whitaker, Alan (2004). The History of Rugby League Clubs. Sydney: New Holland Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd. p. 344. ISBN 174110075–5.
- Stevenson, Andrew (2006-10-03). "Rugby league - the game they play in Melbourne". The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Digital). Retrieved 2009-12-16.
- "Melbourne Storm to face Manly in NRL Grand Final". Herald Sun. 2007-09-23.
- "Major Projects - Melbourne Rectangular Stadium". Archived from the original on 2007-10-11. Retrieved 2007-08-13.
- Read, Brent (2008-11-02). "Livewire Billy Slater kills off rugby league World Cup". The Australian.
- "Kiwis re-write rugby league history". Stuff.co.nz. NZPA. 22 November 2008. Retrieved 6 November 2011.
- http://www.theage.com.au/news/sport/local-talent-is-storms-aim/2007/12/07/1196813024321.html Local talent is Storm's aim
- Messina, Joe (2007). "Australian Rugby Football League Annual Report 2007" (pdf). Australian Rugby League Limited. p. 13. Retrieved 2009-07-15.