World Club Challenge
The World Club Challenge is an annual rugby league competition between the winners of the Australian NRL and the 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 Melbourne Storm are the current champions, having defeated the Leeds Rhinos 38–4 in 2018.
|Current season or competition:|
2018 World Club Challenge
|Number of teams||2|
|Champions||Melbourne Storm (2018)|
|Most titles||Wigan Warriors (4 titles)|
|Broadcast partner||Sky Sports |
|Related competition||World Club Series|
Between 2015 and 2017, the World Club Challenge was 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 developmentEdit
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.
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.
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 Australasian Super League and Super League. 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. However this didn't eventuate.
2000–2014: Regular competitionEdit
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.
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.
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. 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. In addition, commencing in 2015, the tournament would also be expanded to six teams. 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.
2015–2017: World Club SeriesEdit
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. 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.
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. 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, February 10. 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.
2018: World Club Challenge returnEdit
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. 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 2015.
- excludes pool games in 1997
(a) – defunct club (b) – Currently relegated from Super League
List of FinalsEdit
18 teams have competed in the World Club Challenge with 12 teams being successful and being crowned world champions. Wigan have currently won more finals than any other team.
|2011||St George Illawarra||21–15||Wigan|
|2015||South Sydney||39–0||St. Helens|
1 Melbourne stripped of title due to salary cap breaches
Most successful clubsEdit
|Club||Wins||Last win||Runners-up||Last final lost||Total finals|
|8||Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles||1||2009||2||2012||3|
|10||South Sydney Rabbitohs||1||2015||0||N/A||1|
|11||St George Illawarra Dragons||1||2011||0||N/A||1|
|12||North Queensland Cowboys||1||2016||0||N/A||1|
- (*- Melbourne Storm were stripped of their victory in the 2010 World Club Challenge due to salary cap breaches; no winner is recognized for that year)
Wins by CompetitionEdit
The Treble is when one team holds three titles (World Club Challenge, Grand Final Winner and Minor Premiership/League Leader) at the same time. The most recent team to do ths is Melbourne Storm in 2018.
To date the teams that have held the three titles at once are as follows:
(a) The 1997 World Club Challenge was a tournament that occurred concurrently with the respective RL seasons, not after them.
(b) In 1992 the World Club Challenge was played at the conclusion of the respective seasons.
NOTE: no English teams feature prior to 1997 as there was no Grand Final played in England at this time.
|1||Leeds||Elland Road||2005, 2008, 2009, 2010|
|2||Wigan||DW Stadium||2000, 2011, 2017, 2019|
|3||Horwich||Macron Stadium||2001, 2003, 2007|
|4||Huddersfield||John Smiths Stadium||2002, 2004, 2006|
|5||Leeds||Headingley Carnegie Stadium||2012, 2013, 2016|
|6||Wigan||Central Park||1987, 1992|
|7||Sydney||Sydney Cricket Ground||1976|
|13||St. Helens||Langtree Park||2015|
The World Club Challenge has been sponsored sporadically since its formation with 7 different sponsors.
|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|
|2016–2017||Dacia||Dacia World Club Challenge|
|2018||Downer||Downer World Club Challenge|
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- 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.
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- Phil Gould (2006-02-05). "Humbling highlights Tigers' reliance on Benji". SMH. Retrieved 2009-05-16.
- 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.
- "World Club Challenge Expansion Working Party Group". rleague.com. 2012-05-20. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- "World Club Challenge confirmed for Aust". nrl.com. 2013-11-18. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- Steve Mascord (2013-02-14). "World Club Challenge to be held in Australia". Canberra Times. Retrieved 2013-02-14.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2015-07-19.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- "Dragons to play in World Club Series". Nrl.com. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
- "World Club Challenge set to be scrapped?". seriousaboutrl.com. Retrieved 4 November 2017.
- "Wollongong to host historic Super League game". foxsports.com.au. Retrieved 4 November 2017.
- "2018 World Club Challenge: Leeds Rhinos to play Melbourne Storm in Australia". BBC Sport. 13 November 2017. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
- "Super League: Wigan Warriors to face Hull FC in Australia in 2018". BBC Sport. 26 July 2017. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
- "Slater injured as Storm beat Leeds in World Club Challenge". nrl.com.au. Retrieved 16 February 2018.
- "Storm treble enters the history books". melbournestorm.com.au. Retrieved 20 February 2018.