The Country Rugby League of New South Wales (CRL), formed in 1934 and disbanded in 2019, was the governing body for the sport of rugby league football in areas of New South Wales outside the Sydney metropolitan area until it merged with NSW Rugby League in 2019. The CRL was superseded by 6 NSWRL Country Divisions represented by 4 members of the nine-person NSWRL board. Despite its name, the CRL also governed rugby league in the Australian Capital Territory. Apart from selecting a Country Origin side to play in the annual City vs Country Origin game, the CRL administered many senior and junior competitions across the state.
|Country Rugby League|
|Responsibility||Regional New South Wales|
|Membership||24 leagues |
(296 senior clubs)
|Key people||Jock Colley (Chair)|
Terry Quinn (Chief Executive)
As of 1 December 2009
In New South Wales, Newcastle was the first city outside Sydney to start a league competition, despite being involved in the Sydney Premiership in 1908–09 and then starting their own competition in 1910. (Other country areas were playing "football" before this time, which should be referenced. A photograph exists of the Bowraville team of 1907 who presumably played other teams in the district. If the team played Rugby Union, some reference should be made in this History section as to when this region converted to Rugby League. Local research required since early editions of the local newspaper are not in the National Archives.)
On 11 February 1911, the Hunter District Rugby Football League (HDRFL) was established at a large meeting in Maitland, thus becoming the first branch of the New South Wales Rugby League in "the bush" (i.e. outside the urban centres of Sydney and Newcastle). The HDRFL territory encompassed a lower part of the Hunter Valley from Singleton down to the Maitland district and towns on the nearby coalfields (the major ones being Cessnock, Kurri Kurri and Weston). Competition games were scheduled to kick off on 13 May but were pushed back to 20 May when clubs complained they had not had enough time to practice the new code. In the first senior-grade games played, West Maitland def. Kurri Kurri (12–0) and Cessnock def. Morpeth (23–0) in a double-header on the enclosed Albion Ground at Maitland. The first City v. Country match (advertised as such by the NSWRL in the Sydney Morning Herald of 10/6/1911) was played at the Sydney Agricultural Ground on that same Saturday, with City winning 29–8. The Country team was composed exclusively of players from the Newcastle ("Northern") and the Hunter competitions. The first ever country divisional match (described as such in the Maitland Daily Mercury of 31/7/1911) was played at Newcastle on 29/7/1911 between Newcastle and Hunter. Newcastle won 29–14. The first NSW Country team to tour was a squad of 17 players (12 from Newcastle and 5 from Hunter) that played three matches in Queensland between 5/8/1911 and 12/8/1911, defeating the Queensland State side twice and a Queensland Country representative side once. They then travelled to Sydney to play the Sydney Metropolitan team, again winning 31–24.
On 13 May 1911, another branch of the NSWRL was established in the Wollongong area.
In 1911, a Goldfields' League was formed in West Wyalong, and games were played in Tamworth, Aberdeen, and along the South Coast. The game was introduced to Orange in 1912 and spread quickly through the western districts. In 1913 branch leagues were formed at Bathurst, Dubbo, Nowra and Tamworth.
In 1920, the NSWRL set up a Country Committee. NSW Country was divided into six sections: South Coast, Northern Districts, Central Northern Districts, Western Districts, Southern, and North Coast. The group system was introduced in 1922, with neighbouring towns being organised into 12 groups.
The Country Rugby League (CRL) was officially formed in 1934, "subject to the NSW Rugby League still being the paramount institution."
In 1939 a dispute arose between the CRL and the NSWRL. The CRL wanted a new administration structure, an equal partnership in which the NSWRL looked after league in Sydney, and the CRL looked after it in the bush. When their proposal was rejected the CRL broke away from the NSWRL for a week, but returned to the fold with a promise that a committee would be set up to sort things out. Eventually the CRL gave in on the grounds that it was in no one's best interests to have the game divided during World War II.
The NSWRL and CRL have since cooperated in the running of rugby league in NSW, including various 'joint ventures' such as the Ron Massey Cup which features three teams from areas under the control of the CRL.
On 24 August 2018, the NSWRL and CRL announced that they had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding which will involve formal discussions in relation to a possible merger that would see a merger of the two organisations. This would result with Rugby League in NSW governed by one body for the first time in more than 80 years.
In October 2019 CRL merged with the NSWRL after the NSWRL agreed a new constitution and the CRL voted to wind up its affairs immediately. The decisions made on 19 October and merger mean that the aim of a unified administration of the sport in NSW was achieved over a year ahead of time.
The CRL administered the following senior competitions:
Region 1 – East Coast Dolphins Edit
Region 2 – Greater Northern Tigers Edit
Region 3 – Bidgee Bulls (Riverina & Monaro Colts) Edit
Region 4 – Western Rams Edit
Region 5 – Greater Southern Edit
Region 6 – Newcastle & Central Coast Edit
* = Top-level Country leagues; Premiers eligible for Clayton Cup as best regional team in the state.
NRL Victoria Competitions Involving NSW Teams Edit
Disbanded Groups Edit
- Group 1 Rugby League – merged with Group 18 to form Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League (still hold junior competitions)
- Group 5 Rugby League – now forms part of Group 19
- Group 8 Rugby League – merged with Group 19 (Canberra) in 1980 to form ACTRL and CDRL, which formed Canberra Rugby League in 1982
- Group 13 Rugby League – now part of the Group 9 Rugby League in Region 3 (Bidgee Bulls)
- Group 18 Rugby League – merged with Group 1 to form Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League (still holds junior competitions)
- Group 19 Rugby League (1950-1970) - Southern Tablelands, merged into Group 16 in c.1978-79
- Group 19 Rugby League (1974-1979) - Canberra district, merged with Group 8 in 1980 to form ACTRL and CDRL, which formed Canberra Division in 1982
- Sunraysia-Riverlands Rugby League (reformed briefly as a singular side in 1997 in Group 12, later reformed by the Victorian Rugby League).
Team of the Century Edit
In 2008, rugby league football's centenary year in Australia, the Country Rugby League named its 'Team of the Century':
- Clive Churchill (Central Newcastle)
- Brian Carlson (North Newcastle)
- Eddie Lumsden (Kurri Kurri)
- Michael Cronin (Gerringong)
- Graeme Langlands (Wollongong)
- Bob Fulton (Wests Wollongong)
- Andrew Johns (Cessnock)
- Steve Roach (Wests Wollongong)
- Ian Walsh (Condobolin)
- Glenn Lazarus (Queanbeyan Blues)
- Herb Narvo (North Newcastle)
- Bradley Clyde (Belconnen United)
- Wally Prigg (Wests Newcastle/Centrals Newcastle)
Junior competitions Edit
- Andrew Johns Cup – named after Andrew Johns, made up of players aged under 16 from NSW-based clubs and includes both junior regional representative teams and junior teams of National Rugby League (NRL).
- Laurie Daley Cup – named after Laurie Daley, the competition includes both junior representative teams from regional rugby league clubs and junior teams of National Rugby League clubs, made up players under 18.
Player of the Year Award Edit
|1971||Dick Jeffrey||Glen Innes|
|1987||Steve Walters||Lakes United|
|1990||Paul Danes||Wagga Wagga|
|1991||Richard Jones||South Newcastle|
|1992||Trevor Crow||South Newcastle|
|1994||Brian Quinton||Kurri Kurri|
|1998||Paul Skovgaard||Western Suburbs Newcastle|
|2000||Jarrod O'Doherty||Western Suburbs Newcastle|
|2001||Jamie O'Connor||Burleigh Heads|
|2005||Chris Bailey||Northern Blues|
|2006||Darren Jackson & Dean Amos||Cobar / Northern Blues|
|2008||Grant Wooden||Wagga Wagga|
|2009||Grant Wooden||Wagga Wagga|
|2011||Jimmy Grehan||Wests Illawarra|
|2013||Rory O'Brien & Riley Brown||Collegians Illawarra / Cessnock|
|2015||Jarrod Thompson||Collegians Illawarra|
|2016||Chris Adams||Lakes United|
|2019||Cameron Vazzoler||Illawarra South Coast|
See also Edit
- "Committees". Country Rugby League of New South Wales. Retrieved 1 December 2009.
- "COUNTRY RUGBY LEAGUE OF NEW SOUTH WALES INC CONSTITUTION – ADOPTED 27/11/99" (PDF). Country Rugby League of New South Wales. 8 February 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 October 2009. Retrieved 1 December 2009.
- "Reference Centre > NRL History & Structure". National Rugby League. Archived from the original on 16 January 2010. Retrieved 1 December 2009.
- Cessnock Rugby League Football – The Early Years; Mark Bennis; 2011
- "NSWRL and CRL Agree to MOU". New South Wales Rugby League. 24 August 2018. Retrieved 5 January 2019.
- "Country Rugby League merge with NSW Rugby League is official". Manning River Times. 23 October 2019. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
- abc.net.au (1 May 2008). "Three Immortals in best Country side". ABC News. Retrieved 19 November 2011.
- "NSWRL cancels nine competitions for 2020 season". New South Wales Rugby League. 27 March 2020. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
- "Andrew Johns Cup". New South Wales Rugby League. Retrieved 8 October 2020.