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History and Records

The New South Wales Rugby League is the body that oversaw the birth of the game in Australia.

In 1907, under the leadership of JJ Giltinan, Henry Hoyle and Victor Trumper they organised for a group of Pioneer players to break away from rugby union to play three matches against AH Baskerville’s New Zealand team that was on its way to Great Britain. 

The following year, 1908, saw the birth of the club premiership, interstate football and Test matches and within a few seasons the new code had cemented its place as Sydney’s favourite football code.

In the years after the Second World War the game prospered and thrived on the back of a growing population and television coverage. 

In 1980, the NSWRL agreed to allow a change to the interstate rules to enable Queenslanders who played in the Sydney competition the opportunity to represent their state. The State of Origin concept was born and quickly gave birth to one of sport’s greatest rivalries and the biggest and brightest showpiece on Australia’s sporting landscape.   

The NSWRL premiership continued to expand beyond Sydney with the addition of new clubs, and by 1995 with teams from interstate and New Zealand the landscape was changing rapidly, even moreso when the Super League War erupted that year.

The 1998 peace settlement saw the formation of a new body, the NRL, to administer the main premiership but the NSWRL has maintained its proud heritage of fostering all levels of rugby league. Since the decision to unite with the Country Rugby League in 2019 this includes all levels of the game across the state of New South Wales.

Apart from steering the campaign of the NSW Bryden’s Lawyers Blues in the annual State of Origin series, the NSWRL continues to oversee and propagate the game in both the city and country districts.

Junior competitions have been a feature of the game since its inception. Both bush footy and schoolboy competitions had commenced by the time the First World War began in 1914 and have been pillars of the NSWRL ever since, and the first women’s match was as early as 1921.

The growth of the women’s game including interstate challenges has been a spectacular feature of recent years, and since 2018 they have conducted their own successful State of Origin series with the Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Origin side.

The many legends that built this rich heritage are celebrated in the NSWRL The Star Hall of Fame, but there are many more at all levels and they add to it every time teams take the field, be that in a junior match in the bush and suburbs, or an Origin decider.

They carry a torch that was first ignited in 1907 and will never be extinguished.

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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