The World Club Challenge is an annual rugby league competition between the winners of the Australian National Rugby League and the British Super League, for the de facto club world championship of the sport.

World Club Challenge
Current season or competition:
2024 World Club Challenge
SportRugby league
Instituted1976; 48 years ago (1976)
Inaugural season1976
Number of teams2
Nations Australia
 New Zealand
World ChampionsEngland Wigan Warriors (2024)
Most titlesAustralia Sydney Roosters
England Wigan Warriors (5 titles)
Broadcast partnerNine Network
Sky Sport
Sky Sports
BBC Sport
Related competitionNational Rugby League
Super League
World Club Series

Super League sides have won the competition 15 times with National Rugby League sides only having 14 wins including an all Australian final

The first such match was played in 1976, although this was not an official competitive game. The first official World Club Challenge saw Widnes Vikings beat Canberra Raiders 30–18 at Old Trafford on 4 October 1989, after which it became a semi-regular fixture due to the 1990s Super League war. The competition has been held every year since 2000 (excluding 2020–2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

Wigan Warriors are the current champions, defeating Penrith Panthers 13–12 in 2024 at the DW Stadium in front of a sell out crowd of 24,091.

Sydney Roosters and Wigan Warriors have both won the competition 5 times which is the joint highest in all formats since the competition began.

Sydney Roosters are the most successful Australian and National Rugby League side, having won the trophy five times with no losses. Wigan Warriors are the most successful European and Super League side, with five wins. St Helens, Penrith Panthers and Leeds Rhinos have been runners up the most times, with four times each.

Penrith Panthers are arguably the most unsuccessful side in the competition being runners up four times but having never been crowned champions.



1976–1999: Origin and development


The competition began unofficially in 1976 as a match between Sydney's Eastern Suburbs and Premiership winners St. Helens. This inaugural clash was proposed as merely a 'one-off' game, and was played at the Sydney Cricket Ground on June 29, in the midst of the 1976 NSWRFL season.[1]

While some considered it an unnecessary disruption to both teams' campaigns in their respective domestic competitions, a healthy crowd of 26,856 turned out for the match, indicating that it was indeed a viable initiative. Leading into the match, St. Helens opted to play two warm-up games against a Queensland and Auckland representative team respectively, and lost both. In order to prove their triumph was legitimate, and not a result of fatigue on behalf of St. Helens, Eastern Suburbs challenged both representative sides who had defeated St. Helens. While Queensland declined the offer, Auckland eagerly accepted, and were ultimately defeated by the tricolours 26–22 in front of an enthusiastic home crowd.[1] Because the 1976 clash was a standalone game, there were no immediate plans for a follow-up match the next season, or indeed any in the foreseeable future.

The concept would not return until 1987, when another unofficial match took place. Wigan chairman Maurice Lindsay invited Manly-Warringah to Central Park.[2] Long-serving Manly secretary Ken Arthurson proposed that the prize money should be split between the two clubs, regardless of the outcome, however, Lindsay argued that the game should be played under a 'winner-takes-all' stipulation, believing that it would result in the players and fans taking the game more seriously. Played on a dry October night, the match between Manly and Wigan was a tough, at times spiteful, encounter which attracted 36,895 spectators to Wigan's Central Park, most of whom spilled onto the ground at fulltime in celebration of the home side's 8–2 victory.[1] Manly forward Ron Gibbs became the first player to be sent off in a World Club Challenge game during the match, as he was given his marching orders following an illegal elbow to Wigan centre Joe Lydon as he attempted a drop-goal.

Sea Eagles captain Paul Vautin would later claim that his side's loss came down to the team's lackadaisical attitude toward the game, saying that Manly treated the fixture as an opportunity to travel to England for a holiday, where they would continue their grand final celebrations.[1]

The first officially recognised World Club Challenge was between Widnes and Canberra in 1989. Three more World Club Challenge games were played in the 1990s – 1991, 1992 and 1994 – with Wigan appearing in all three (winning the first at Anfield, Liverpool, losing to the Brisbane Broncos at home in the second before memorably defeating the same opponent in their own city in the third).

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[3]

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 the twenty-two clubs from the Australasian Super League and the European Super League. The twelve Australian Rugby League affiliated clubs did not take part. 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.

1997 tournament trophy

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.[4] However this did not 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.[5][6]

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 of the National Rugby League season but in the early stages of the new Super League season.[citation needed]

Elland Road prior to the 2010 edition of the tournament.

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.[7] 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 the 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.[8] In addition, commencing in 2015, the tournament would also be expanded to six teams.[9] The World Club Challenge return to Australia in 2014 was a success with a solid crowd numbers of 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.[citation needed]

2015–2017: 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.[10] The first iteration took place between 20 and 22 February 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.[11]

In 2017, the format was reduced to four teams, with the NRL citing tight schedules, distant travel and long seasons as an impediment to their participation in the Series. After the NRL negotiated with the Brisbane Broncos, it was decided that they would represent the NRL in an exhibition match vs Warrington Wolves prior to the usual Challenge game between the Super League Champions Wigan Warriors and Cronulla Sutherland Sharks, maintaining the overall Series concept. 2017 would be Super League's first victory since the series began, with Warrington winning 27–18 against Brisbane,[12] and Wigan beating Cronulla 22–6.[13]

In October 2017, it was suggested that the 2018 Series could be scrapped completely based on the top Australian teams reluctance to travel to the UK for the 2017 series which resulted in the Series being scaled back to two games only. In particular the second game of the 2017 series only featured an invited team from the NRL.[14] In addition, the 2017 Rugby League World Cup being played in Australia at the end of 2017, meant that the preseasons for Australian teams was going to be unusually short ahead of the 2018 season and therefore did not want to make the trip to England for the 2018 series. The Melbourne Storm (2017 NRL Premiers) in particular, were reluctant to travel meaning the series was in danger of cancellation for the first time since the 1990s as it is the Storm that was playing in the World Club Challenge.

In June 2017, the Super League announced that the Australian city of Wollongong would host the first ever Super League game outside Europe. Wigan Warriors will "host" Hull F.C. in the game at WIN Stadium on Saturday, 10 February.[15] In addition and as part of this trip to Australia, Wigan and Hull would also play two exhibition games against South Sydney Rabbitohs and St George Illawarra Dragons respectively. These were separately arranged fixtures and not considered part of the World Club Series.[16][17]

2018–2020: Return to single match format


On 14 November 2017, it was confirmed that Leeds Rhinos would travel to Australia to play Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park in Melbourne on 16 February 2018, and that the World Club Challenge would return to a one-game format for the first time since 2014.[16] The Storm defeated Leeds 38–4 to become World Club Champions for 2018 and also became the first club to hold the NRL Minor Premiership, NRL Premiership and World Club Challenege at the same time since the Sydney Roosters in 2014.[18]

On 22 February 2020, the Sydney Roosters became the first team to win back to back World Club Challenges, defeating St Helens 20–12 in the process. They also overtook Wigan in most challenges won with five.[19]

2021–2022: COVID-19 cancellations


On 20 November 2020 it was announced that the 2021 World Club challenge, which was due to be played between Melbourne Storm and St Helens would be postponed until late in 2021 owing to the push back of seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing pandemic itself preventing overseas travel.[20] However, due to the continuing issues surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the clash between St Helens and Melbourne was completely cancelled.[21]

In October 2021, St Helens chairman Eamonn McManus said that while he hoped the 2022 version of this fixture could go ahead against the Penrith Panthers, he acknowledged it would be “very difficult” to arrange.[22] The year's competition was ultimately also cancelled.[23]

2023–2024: Return

2023 World Club Challenge

On 9 November 2022, it was announced that the World Club Challenge would make its return and be staged in Australia at BlueBet Stadium.[24] Back-to-back NRL champions Penrith Panthers would host St Helens, the Super League champions for four consecutive years.[25] The match took place on Saturday February 18, with kick-off at 7am (GMT). For the first time in the history of the competition the match went to golden point extra time after a dramatic finale meant that the match was tied 12–12 at the full time hooter. St Helens scored the winning point with a Lewis Dodd drop goal, a shock win to become the first Super League side to win the Challenge in Australia since 1994.[25][26] This was also the worst attended game in 23 years, falling nearly 10,000 short of the capacity of the BlueBet Stadium, the previous low attendance also involved St Helens which was held at the DW Stadium in Wigan, with only the 1997 game having a lower attendance.[25][27] Penrith would win a third consecutive NRL title while St Helens' monopoly ended as Wigan Warriors won Super League in 2023 to set up a rematch from the 1991 edition of the World Club Challenge. Penrith would fail in capturing an inaugural World Club Challenge win in 2024 as they were defeated 16-12 at the DW Stadium by Wigan,[28] who equalled the Sydney Roosters' tally of five World Club Challenge wins.



List of matches


18 teams have competed in the World Club Challenge with 12 teams being successful and being crowned world champions. Sydney Roosters and Wigan Warriors have currently jointly won more finals than any other team with five wins, Wigan also being the current champions (Roosters first title was prior to the club's name change from Eastern Suburbs).

Season Champions Score Runners-up Venue Attendance
1976   Eastern Suburbs 25 – 2   St Helens   Sydney Cricket Ground 26,865
1987   Wigan Warriors 8 – 2   Manly Warringah Sea Eagles   Central Park 36,895
1989   Widnes Vikings 30 – 18   Canberra Raiders   Old Trafford 30,786
1991   Wigan Warriors (2) 21 – 4   Penrith Panthers   Anfield 20,152
1992   Brisbane Broncos 22 – 8   Wigan Warriors   Central Park 17,764
1994   Wigan Warriors (3) 20 – 14   Brisbane Broncos   Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre 54,220
1997 Final   Brisbane Broncos (2) 36 – 12   Hunter Mariners   Mount Smart Stadium 10,300
2000   Melbourne Storm 44 – 6   St Helens   DW Stadium 13,394
2001   St Helens 20 – 18   Brisbane Broncos   Reebok Stadium 16,041
2002   Bradford Bulls 41 – 26   Newcastle Knights   Kirklees Stadium 21,113
2003   Sydney Roosters (2) 38 – 0   St Helens   Reebok Stadium 19,807
2004   Bradford Bulls (2) 22 – 4   Penrith Panthers   Kirklees Stadium 18,962
2005   Leeds Rhinos 39 – 32   Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs   Elland Road 37,028
2006   Bradford Bulls (3) 30 – 10   Wests Tigers   Kirklees Stadium 19,207
2007   St Helens (2) 18 – 14   Brisbane Broncos   Reebok Stadium 23,207
2008   Leeds Rhinos (2) 11 – 4   Melbourne Storm   Elland Road 33,204
2009   Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 28 – 20   Leeds Rhinos   Elland Road 32,569
2010   Melbourne Storm[a] 18 – 10   Leeds Rhinos   Elland Road 27,697
2011   St George Illawarra Dragons 21 – 15   Wigan Warriors   DW Stadium 24,268
2012   Leeds Rhinos (3) 26 – 12   Manly Warringah Sea Eagles   Headingley Stadium 21,062
2013   Melbourne Storm (2) 18 – 14   Leeds Rhinos   Headingley Stadium 20,400
2014   Sydney Roosters (3) 36 – 14   Wigan Warriors   Allianz Stadium 31,515
2015   South Sydney Rabbitohs 39 – 0   St Helens   Langtree Park 17,980
2016   North Queensland Cowboys 38 – 4   Leeds Rhinos   Headingley Stadium 19,778
2017   Wigan Warriors (4) 22 – 6   Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks   DW Stadium 21,011
2018   Melbourne Storm (3) 38 – 4   Leeds Rhinos   Melbourne Rectangular Stadium 19,062
2019   Sydney Roosters (4) 20 – 8   Wigan Warriors   DW Stadium 21,331
2020   Sydney Roosters (5) 20 – 12   St Helens   Totally Wicked Stadium 16,108
2021 Cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic
(  St Helens vs   Melbourne Storm).[29]
2022 Cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic
(  St Helens vs   Penrith Panthers).[30]
2023   St Helens (3) 13 – 12   Penrith Panthers   Penrith Stadium 13,783
2024   Wigan Warriors (5) 16 – 12   Penrith Panthers   DW Stadium 24,091

Team performance

Team Winners Runners-up Years won Years runner-up
  Sydney Roosters 5 0 1976, 2003, 2014, 2019, 2020 N/A
  Wigan Warriors 5 4 1987, 1991, 1994, 2017, 2024 1992, 2011, 2014, 2019
  Leeds Rhinos 3 5 2005, 2008, 2012 2009, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2018
  St Helens 2001, 2007, 2023 1976, 2000, 2003, 2015, 2020
  Melbourne Storm 1 2000, 2010,[a] 2013, 2018 2008
  Bradford Bulls 0 2002, 2004, 2006 N/A
  Brisbane Broncos 2 3 1992, 1997 1994, 2001, 2007
  Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 1 2 2009 1987, 2012
  Widnes Vikings 1 0 1989 N/A
  St. George Illawarra Dragons 2011
  South Sydney Rabbitohs 2015
  North Queensland Cowboys 2016
  Penrith Panthers 0 4 N/A 1991, 2004, 2023, 2024
  Canberra Raiders 1 1989
  Hunter Mariners 1997
  Newcastle Knights 2002
  Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 2005
  Wests Tigers 2006
  Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 2017

Wins by competition

League Winners Years won
  National Rugby League / NSWRL / Super League 14 1976, 1992, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2020
  Super League / First Division 15 1987, 1989, 1991, 1994, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2017, 2023, 2024

The Treble


The Treble, in Australian rugby league, involves winning the World Club Challenge, Grand Final, and Minor Premiership within the same season.[31]

NB: In British rugby league, "the treble" refers to winning the Super League Grand Final, League Leaders Shield, and Challenge Cup, however British teams are still listed here who qualify by the Australian definition.

To date the teams that have held the three titles at once are as follows:

Club Year[b] Titles
  Eastern Suburbs Roosters 1975 1975 NSWRFL Grand Final, 1975 Minor Premiership, 1976 World Club Challenge
  Wigan Warriors 1987 1986–87 RFL First Division, 1987 Premiership, 1987 World Club Challenge
  Widnes Vikings 1989 1988–89 RFL First Division, 1989 Premiership, 1989 World Club Challenge
  Brisbane Broncos 1992 1992 NSWRL Grand Final, 1992 Minor Premiership, 1992 World Club Challenge
  Wigan Warriors (2) 1994 1993–94 RFL First Division, 1994 Premiership, 1994 World Club Challenge
  Brisbane Broncos (2) 1997 1997 Super League Grand Final, 1997 Super League Minor Premiership, 1997 World Club Championship Final
  Bradford Bulls 2001 2001 Super League Grand Final, 2001 League Leaders' Shield, 2002 World Club Challenge
  Bradford Bulls (2) 2003 2003 Super League Grand Final, 2003 League Leaders' Shield, 2004 World Club Challenge
  Leeds Rhinos 2004 2004 Super League Grand Final, 2004 League Leaders' Shield, 2005 World Club Challenge
  St Helens 2006 2006 Super League Grand Final, 2006 League Leaders' Shield, 2007 World Club Challenge
  St. George Illawarra Dragons 2010 2010 NRL Grand Final, 2010 Minor Premiership, 2011 World Club Challenge
  Sydney Roosters (2) 2013 2013 NRL Grand Final, 2013 Minor Premiership, 2014 World Club Challenge
  Melbourne Storm 2017 2017 NRL Grand Final, 2017 Minor Premiership, 2018 World Club Challenge
  Sydney Roosters (3) 2018 2018 NRL Grand Final, 2018 Minor Premiership, 2019 World Club Challenge
  St Helens (2) 2022 2022 Super League Grand Final, 2022 League Leaders' Shield, 2023 World Club Challenge
  Wigan Warriors (3) 2023 2023 Super League Grand Final, 2023 League Leaders' Shield, 2024 World Club Challenge


City Stadium Years
1   Wigan DW Stadium 2000, 2011, 2017, 2019, 2024
2   Leeds Elland Road 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010
3   Bolton Macron Stadium 2001, 2003, 2007
3   Huddersfield Kirklees Stadium 2002, 2004, 2006
3   Leeds Headingley Stadium 2012, 2013, 2016
6   Wigan Central Park 1987, 1992
6   St. Helens Langtree Park 2015, 2020
8   Sydney Sydney Cricket Ground 1976
8   Manchester Old Trafford 1989
8   Liverpool Anfield 1991
8   Brisbane ANZ Stadium 1994
8   Auckland Mount Smart Stadium 1997
8   Sydney Sydney Football Stadium 2014
8   Melbourne Melbourne Rectangular Stadium 2018
8   Penrith Penrith Park 2023




Year City Stadium Attendance
1994 Sydney ANZ Stadium 54,220


Year City Stadium Attendance
1997 Auckland Ericsson Stadium 12,000





The World Club Challenge has been sponsored sporadically since its formation.

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 VISA VISA World Club Championship
2000 Kellogg's Kellogg's World Club Challenge[32]
2001-2004 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, 2023 None World Club Challenge
2016–2017 Dacia Dacia World Club Challenge
2018 Downer Downer World Club Challenge
2019–2020, 2024 Betfred Betfred World Club Challenge
2023 None World Club Challenge
2024 Betfred Betfred World Club Challenge


  1. ^ a b Melbourne were stripped of title due to salary cap breaches.
  2. ^ For most of its history, the World Club Challenge has been played as a curtain opener to the following NRL and Super League seasons, therefore the year shown may not be the same as the year the competition was won.


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  2. ^ Wilson, Andy (3 October 2010). "Wigan prepare to slay Dragons after crushing St Helens in Grand Final". Retrieved 24 July 2011.
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  20. ^ "2021 World Club Challenge postponed with later dates under consideration | Sporting News Australia". Archived from the original on 26 January 2021.
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  24. ^ "St Helens to face Penrith Panthers in World Club Challenge in Australia". 9 November 2022. Retrieved 11 November 2022.
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  29. ^ "Start of 2021 Super League delayed, World Club Challenge may be played later in year | LoveRugbyLeague". 19 November 2020.
  30. ^ "NRL 2022, draw announced - NRL". 9 November 2021. Archived from the original on 9 November 2021. Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  31. ^ "Storm treble enters the history books". 19 February 2018. Retrieved 20 February 2018.
  32. ^ "Saints outclassed by Melbourne". BBC News. 22 January 2000. Retrieved 8 October 2021.