The Ashes (rugby league)

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The Ashes
Sport Rugby league football
Inaugural season 1908–09
Number of teams 2
Countries  Australia
 United Kingdom
Holders  Australia (2003)
Most titles  Australia (20 titles)

The Ashes series, like the cricket series of the same name, was a best-of-three series of test matches between the British and Australian national rugby league football teams.[1][2] It was contested 39 times from 1908 until 2003 largely with hosting rights alternating between the two countries. From 1973 Australia won thirteen consecutive Ashes series.[3]


Several sports and events adopted cricket's Ashes "concept" and by the beginning of the 20th century it was an "accepted principle" that a series had to have at least three matches to be a true test of which side was the best.[2]

On 27 September 1908, the first touring Australian rugby league side arrived in England, and played their first ever Test against the Great Britain side in December in London. Two further Tests were played. The Australians suggested that the series should be called "The Ashes" and the name stuck.

The format used is that three matches are played, with the winning team being decided on the basis of most matches won. If one team has already won two matches the series is already won, however the final game is usually still played. In the 1929–30 Ashes series both the teams won one game and one game was drawn; it was therefore decided to hold a further match to determine the outcome.

The British side has not always been termed Great Britain; in the past the titles "Northern Union XIII", "England" and "The Lions" have also been used. Similarly, the Australian sides had sometimes included New Zealand players so were styled "Australasia".

Since 1964 the Harry Sunderland Medal is awarded to the best Australian player in a home Ashes series. Since 1970, the series has been very one sided, Australia having won 13 consecutive ashes.

The Ashes had not been contested since 2003 when, in 2009 with the prospect of not contesting them until after the 2013 World Cup, Britain's Rugby Football League (RFL) challenged the Australian Rugby League (ARL) to play the round-robin stage match of the Four Nations tournament with the Ashes at stake. The one-off game would be a departure from the usual three-match series, additionally the contest would be between England, rather than Great Britain, and Australia.[4] The ARL initially agreed to the proposal but later, facing hostility from former Ashes players and fans who thought the proposals devalued the Ashes, the two governing bodies decided not to proceed.[5][6][7]


In 1928, the City Tattersalls Club in Sydney, Australia donated a trophy to be the prize, the "Ashes Cup".[2] The Cup's inscription reads:[2]

Australia v England
Presented by

The Cup was first presented in 1928 to The Lions, after they defeated Australia 2–1 in the series.[2] Following the 1933–34 series, in which England retained the Cup for the third time since first being presented with it, the Cup disappeared in the United Kingdom.[2] The Cup was found in October 1945.[2] During the period it was missing, the Lions had won each series and the Cup's disappearance was not widely known.[2] The Australian team first won the Cup in 1950.[2]

In preparation for the Legends of League exhibition at the National Museum of Australia in 2008, marking a Centenary of Rugby League in Australia, the Ashes Cup underwent preservation work.[8]


Year Home Team Result Away Team
1908–09 Northern Union (GB) 2–0 Australia
1910 Australia 0–2 Northern Union (GB)
1911 Great Britain 0–2 Australia
1914 Australia 1–2 Northern Union (GB)
1920 Australia 2–1 Northern Union (GB)
1921–22 Great Britain 3–1 Australia
1924 Australia 1–2 The Lions
1928 Australia 1–2 The Lions
1929/30 The Lions (GB) 2–1 (1 Tied) Australia
1932[9] Australia 1–2 The Lions (GB)
1933 The Lions (GB) 3–0 Australia
1936 Australia 1–2 The Lions (GB)
1937 The Lions (GB) 2–1 Australia
1946 Australia 0–2 The Lions (GB)
1948 Great Britain 3–0 Australia
1950 Australia 2–1 Great Britain
1952 Great Britain 2–1 Australia
1954 Australia 2–1 Great Britain
1956 Great Britain 2–1 Australia
1958 Australia 1–2 Great Britain
1959 Great Britain 2–1 Australia
1962 Australia 1–2 Great Britain
1963 Great Britain 1–2 Australia
1966 Australia 2–1 Great Britain
1967 Great Britain 1–2 Australia
1970 Australia 1–2 Great Britain
1973 Great Britain 1–2 Australia
1974 Australia 2–1 Great Britain
1978 Great Britain 1–2 Australia
1979 Australia 3–0 Great Britain
1982 Great Britain 0–3 Australia
1984 Australia 3–0 Great Britain
1986 Great Britain 0–3 Australia
1988 Australia 2–1 Great Britain
1990 Great Britain 1–2 Australia
1992 Australia 2–1 Great Britain
1994 Great Britain 1–2 Australia
2001 Great Britain 1–2 Australia
2003 Great Britain 0–3 Australia

Summary of Ashes series

Played Won by
Won by
Great Britain
All series 39 20 (51.3%) 19 (48.7%) 0 (0.0%)
Series in Australia 19 9 (47.4%) 10 (52.6%) 0 (0.0%)
Series in Great Britain 20 11 (55.0%) 9 (45.0%) 0 (0.0%)
All Tests 119 59 (49.6%) 55 (46.2%) 5 (4.2%)
Tests in Australia 57 28 (49.1%) 27 (47.4%) 2 (3.5%)
Tests in Great Britain 62 31 (50%) 28 (45.2%) 3 (4.8%)
Figures up to and including the 3rd Test of the 2003 series

See also


  1. Hickey, Julia (2006). Understanding Rugby League. UK: Coachwise. p. 13. ISBN 978-1-905540-10-5. Retrieved 20 February 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 Sean Fagan (2009-09-15). "Rugby league's fight for The Ashes". Retrieved 2009-09-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. McCann, Liam (2006). Rugby: Facts, Figures and Fun. UK: AAPPL Artists' and Photographers' Press. p. 80.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Ashes brought back to life" (4 September 2009)
  6. Steve Mascord (2009-09-16). "Ashes set for 2010?". Retrieved 2009-09-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "RFL scrap Ashes plan". 2009-09-15. Retrieved 2009-09-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. NMA (2008-02-22). "League of Legends: 100 years of Rugby League in Australia: Conservation slideshow". National Museum of Australia. Retrieved 2009-09-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

External links