Open main menu

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 Sydney City Roosters are the current champions, having defeated the Wigan Warriors 8– 20 in Wigan.

World Club Challenge
Current season or competition:
2019 World Club Series
World Club Challenge logo
SportRugby league
Inaugural season1976
Number of teams2
Countries Australia
 New Zealand
ChampionsEastern Suburbs colours.svg Sydney Roosters (2019)
Most titlesEastern Suburbs colours.svg Sydney Roosters
Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors (4 titles)
Broadcast partnerSky Sports United Kingdom Republic of Ireland
Nine Network Australia
Sky Sport New Zealand
Related competitionWorld Club Series
Super League

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.[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 the twenty-two clubs from the Australasian Super League and the European 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.[3] 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.[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 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.[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 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.[7] In addition, commencing in 2015, the tournament would 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 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.[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]

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.[11] 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.[12] 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.[13][14]

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.[13] 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.[15]



  • excludes pool games in 1997

(a) – defunct club (b) – Currently relegated from Super League

World Club Challenge Participants
Colors Club Established City League Last WCC # of Titles Last WCC title
Bradford Bulls (b) 1907 Bradford, West Yorkshire   Super League 2006; 13 years ago (2006) 3 2006; 13 years ago (2006)
Brisbane Broncos 1987 Brisbane, Queensland   NRL 2007; 12 years ago (2007) 2 1997; 22 years ago (1997)
Canberra Raiders 1981 Canberra, Australian Capital Territory   NRL 1989; 30 years ago (1989) 0
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 1934 Sydney, New South Wales   NRL 2005; 14 years ago (2005) 0
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 1967 Sydney, New South Wales   NRL 2017; 2 years ago (2017) 0
Hunter Mariners (a) 1995 Newcastle, New South Wales   NRL 1997; 22 years ago (1997) 0
Leeds Rhinos 1870 Leeds, West Yorkshire   Super League 2018; 1 year ago (2018) 3 2012; 7 years ago (2012)
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 1946 Sydney, New South Wales   NRL 2012; 7 years ago (2012) 1 2009; 10 years ago (2009)
Melbourne Storm 1997 Melbourne, Victoria   NRL 2018; 1 year ago (2018) 3 2018; 1 year ago (2018)
Newcastle Knights 1988 Newcastle, New South Wales   NRL 2002; 17 years ago (2002) 0
North Queensland Cowboys 1993 Townsville, Queensland   NRL 2016; 3 years ago (2016) 1 2016; 3 years ago (2016)
Penrith Panthers 1967 Penrith, New South Wales   NRL 2004; 15 years ago (2004) 0
South Sydney Rabbitohs 1908 Sydney, New South Wales   NRL 2015; 4 years ago (2015) 1 2015; 4 years ago (2015)
St George Illawarra Dragons 1998 Sydney and Wollongong, New South Wales   NRL 2011; 8 years ago (2011) 1 2011; 8 years ago (2011)
St. Helens 1873 St. Helens, Merseyside   Super League 2015; 4 years ago (2015) 2 2007; 12 years ago (2007)
Sydney Roosters 1908 Sydney, New South Wales   NRL 2019; 0 years ago (2019) 4 2019; 0 years ago (2019)
Wests Tigers 1999 Sydney, New South Wales   NRL 2006; 13 years ago (2006) 0
Widnes Vikings (b) 1875 Widnes, Cheshire   Super League 1989; 30 years ago (1989) 1 1989; 30 years ago (1989)
Wigan Warriors 1872 Wigan, Greater Manchester   Super League 2017; 2 years ago (2017) 4 2017; 2 years ago (2017)

List of FinalsEdit

18 teams have competed in the World Club Challenge with 12 teams being successful and being crowned world champions. Sydney Roosters & Wigan have currently won more finals than any other team with 4 titles each. (Roosters first title was prior to the club’s name change from Eastern Suburbs)

Year Winners Score Runner-up
1976   Eastern Suburbs 25–2   St. Helens
1987   Wigan 8–2   Manly
1989   Widnes 30–18   Canberra
1991   Wigan 21–4   Penrith
1992   Brisbane 22–8   Wigan
1994   Wigan 20–14   Brisbane
1997   Brisbane 36–12   Hunter Mariners
2000   Melbourne 44–6   St. Helens
2001   St. Helens 20–18   Brisbane
2002   Bradford 41–26   Newcastle
2003   Sydney 38–0   St. Helens
2004   Bradford 22–4   Penrith
2005   Leeds 39–32   Canterbury
2006   Bradford 30–10   Wests
2007   St. Helens 18–14   Brisbane
2008   Leeds 11–4   Melbourne
2009   Manly 28–20   Leeds
2010   Melbourne1 18–10   Leeds
2011   St George Illawarra 21–15   Wigan
2012   Leeds 26–12   Manly
2013   Melbourne 18–14   Leeds
2014   Sydney 36–14   Wigan
2015   South Sydney 39–0   St. Helens
2016   North Queensland 38–4   Leeds
2017   Wigan 22–6   Cronulla
2018   Melbourne 38–4   Leeds
2019   Sydney 20-8   Wigan

1 Melbourne stripped of title due to salary cap breaches

Most successful clubsEdit

Club Wins Last win Runners-up Last final lost Total finals
1   Wigan Warriors 4 2017 4 2019 8
2   Sydney Roosters 4 2019 0 N/A 4
3   Leeds Rhinos 3 2012 5 2018 8
4   Melbourne Storm 3* 2018 1 2008 5
5   Bradford Bulls 3 2006 0 N/A 3
6   St. Helens 2 2007 4 2015 6
7   Brisbane Broncos 2 1997 3 2007 5
8   Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 1 2009 2 2012 3
9   Widnes Vikings 1 1989 0 N/A 1
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
13   Penrith Panthers 0 N/A 2 2004 2
14   Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 0 N/A 1 2017 1
15   Wests Tigers 0 N/A 1 2006 1
16   Canterbury Bulldogs 0 N/A 1 2005 1
17   Newcastle Knights 0 N/A 1 2002 1
18   Hunter Mariners 0 N/A 1 1997 1
19   Canberra Raiders 0 N/A 1 1989 1

Wins by CompetitionEdit

Competition Wins
1   NRL 14*
2   Super League 13

The TrebleEdit

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 this is the Sydney Roosters in 2019.[16]

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

Club Years Titles
  Eastern Suburbs Roosters 1975/76 1975 NSWRFL Grand Final, 1975 Minor Premiership, 1976 World Club Challenge
  Brisbane Broncos 1992 1992 NSWRL Grand Final, 1992 Minor Premiership, 1992 World Club Challenge (b)
  Brisbane Broncos 1997 1997 Super League (Australia) Grand Final, 1997 Super League Minor Premiership, 1997 World Club Championship Final (a)
  Bradford Bulls 2001/02 2001 Super League Grand Final, 2001 League Leaders Shield, 2002 World Club Challenge
  Bradford Bulls 2003/04 2003 Super League Grand Final, 2003 League Leaders Shield, 2004 World Club Challenge
  Leeds Rhinos 2004/05 2004 Super League Grand Final, 2004 League Leaders Shield, 2005 World Club Challenge
  St Helens 2006/07 2006 Super League Grand Final, 2006 League Leaders Shield, 2007 World Club Challenge
  St George Illawarra Dragons 2010/11 2010 NRL Grand Final, 2010 Minor Premiership, 2011 World Club Challenge
  Sydney Roosters 2013/14 2013 NRL Grand Final, 2013 Minor Premiership, 2014 World Club Challenge
  Melbourne Storm 2017/18 2017 NRL Grand Final, 2017 Minor Premiership, 2018 World Club Challenge
  Sydney Roosters 2018/19 2018 NRL Grand Final, 2018 Minor Premiership, 2019 World Club Challenge

(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.


City Stadium Years
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
8   Manchester Old Trafford 1989
9   Liverpool Anfield 1991
10   Brisbane ANZ Stadium 1994
11   Auckland Ericsson Stadium 1997
12   Sydney Allianz Stadium 2014
13   St. Helens Langtree Park 2015
14   Melbourne AAMI Park 2018



Year City Stadium Attendance
1994 Brisbane 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 with 9 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
2016–2017 Dacia Dacia World Club Challenge
2018 Downer Downer World Club Challenge
2019 Betfred Betfred World Club Challenge


  1. ^ Wilson, Andy (3 October 2010). "Wigan prepare to slay Dragons after crushing St Helens in Grand Final". Retrieved 24 July 2011.
  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.
  3. ^ Hadfield, Dave (1998-09-23). "League proposes show in S Africa". The Independent. UK: Retrieved 2010-04-24.
  4. ^ Phil Gould (2006-02-05). "Humbling highlights Tigers' reliance on Benji". SMH. Retrieved 2009-05-16.
  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.[dead link]
  6. ^ "World Club Challenge Expansion Working Party Group". 2012-05-20. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
  7. ^ "World Club Challenge confirmed for Aust". 2013-11-18. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
  8. ^ Steve Mascord (2013-02-14). "World Club Challenge to be held in Australia". Canberra Times. Retrieved 2013-02-14.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2015-07-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ "Dragons to play in World Club Series". Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  11. ^ "World Club Challenge set to be scrapped?". Retrieved 4 November 2017.
  12. ^ "Wollongong to host historic Super League game". Retrieved 4 November 2017.
  13. ^ a b "2018 World Club Challenge: Leeds Rhinos to play Melbourne Storm in Australia". BBC Sport. 13 November 2017. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  14. ^ "Super League: Wigan Warriors to face Hull FC in Australia in 2018". BBC Sport. 26 July 2017. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  15. ^ "Slater injured as Storm beat Leeds in World Club Challenge". Retrieved 16 February 2018.
  16. ^ "Storm treble enters the history books". Retrieved 20 February 2018.