World Club Challenge
|Number of teams||2|
|Related competitions||World Club Series
|Current champions||File:North Queensland colours.svg North Queensland Cowboys
|Most successful club(s)|| Bradford Bulls
File:Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos
File:Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors
(3 Titles Each)
|Television broadcasters||Nine Network
|2016 World Club Series|
The World Club Challenge is an annually held competition between the winners of the Australian NRL and the European 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 North Queensland Cowboys are the current champions, having defeated the Leeds Rhinos 38–4 in 2016.
The World Club Challenge is now 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 development
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 Australian and European Super Leagues. 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 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.
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 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 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 will also be expanded to six teams. The World Club Challenge return to Australia in 2014 was a success with a solid crowd numbers of just 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-present: 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. 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.
List of participants
- excludes pool games in 1997
*capacity for rugby league games may differ from official stadium capacity.
World Club Challenge finals
18 teams have competed in the World Club Challenge with 12 teams being successful and being crowned world champions.
- (1997*- Tournament)
- (*- Melbourne Storm stripped of title)
|Club||Wins||Last win||Runners-up||Last final lost||Total finals|
|1||File:Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos||3||2012||4||2016||7|
|2||File:Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors||3||1994||3||2014||6|
|6||File:Saintscolours.svg St Helens||2||2007||4||2015||6|
|8||Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles||1||2009||2||2012||3|
|9||File:North Queensland colours.svg North Queensland Cowboys||1||2016||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||File:Widnes colours.svg Widnes Vikings||1||1989||0||N/A||1|
|17||File:Hunter colours.svg Hunter Mariners||0||N/A||1||1997||1|
|1||Leeds||Elland Road||2005, 2008, 2009, 2010|
|2||Bolton||Macron Stadium||2001, 2003, 2007|
|3||Huddersfield||John Smiths Stadium||2002, 2004, 2006|
|4||Leeds||Headingley Carnegie Stadium||2012, 2013, 2016|
|5||Wigan||Central Park||1987, 1992|
|6||Wigan||DW Stadium||2000, 2011|
|7||Sydney||Sydney Cricket Ground||1976|
|10||Brisbane||Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre||1994|
|11||Auckland||Mount Smart Stadium||1997|
|12||Sydney||Sydney Football Stadium||2014|
|13||St Helens||Langtree Park||2015|
|1997||Auckland||Mount Smart Stadium||12,000|
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|
|2016-2018||Dacia||Dacia World Club Challenge|
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