World Club Challenge

World Club Challenge
Current season or competition:
2018 World Club Challenge
Sport Rugby league
Instituted 1976
Inaugural season 1976
Number of teams 2
Countries  Australia
Champions Melbourne Storm (2018)
Most titles Wigan Warriors (4 titles)
Broadcast partner Sky Sports
Nine Network
Sky Sport
Related competition World Club Series
Super League

The World Club Challenge is an annual rugby league 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 Melbourne Storm are the current champions, having defeated the Leeds Rhinos 38–4 in 2018.

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 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.[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 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.[3] 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.[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 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.[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 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 return

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 2015. [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 3 2006
Brisbane Broncos 1987 Brisbane, Queensland NRL 2007 2 1997
Canberra Raiders 1981 Canberra, Australian Capital Territory NRL 1989 0
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 1934 Sydney, New South Wales NRL 2005 0
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 1967 Sydney, New South Wales NRL 2017 0
Hunter Mariners (a) 1995 Newcastle, New South Wales NRL 1997 0
Leeds Rhinos 1870 Leeds, West Yorkshire Super League 2018 3 2012
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 1946 Sydney, New South Wales NRL 2012 1 2009
Melbourne Storm 1997 Melbourne, Victoria NRL 2018 3 2018
Newcastle Knights 1988 Newcastle, New South Wales NRL 2002 0
North Queensland Cowboys 1993 Townsville, Queensland NRL 2016 1 2016
Penrith Panthers 1967 Penrith, New South Wales NRL 2004 0
South Sydney Rabbitohs 1908 Sydney, New South Wales NRL 2015 1 2015
St George Illawarra Dragons 1998 Sydney and Wollongong, New South Wales NRL 2011 1 2011
St. Helens 1873 St. Helens, Merseyside Super League 2015 2 2007
Sydney Roosters 1908 Sydney, New South Wales NRL 2014 3 2014
Wests Tigers 1999 Sydney, New South Wales NRL 2006 0
Widnes Vikings 1875 Widnes, Cheshire Super League 1989 1 1989
Wigan Warriors 1872 Wigan, Greater Manchester Super League 2017 4 2017

List of Finals

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.

Year Winners Score Runner-up
1976 Sydney 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

1 Melbourne stripped of title due to salary cap breaches

Most successful clubs

Club Wins Last win Runners-up Last final lost Total finals
1 Wigan Warriors42017320147
2 Leeds Rhinos32012520188
3 Melbourne Storm3*2018120085
4 Sydney Roosters320140N/A3
5 Bradford Bulls320060N/A3
6 St. Helens22007420156
7 Brisbane Broncos21997320075
8 Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles12009220123
9 Widnes Vikings119890N/A1
10 South Sydney Rabbitohs120150N/A1
11 St George Illawarra Dragons120110N/A1
12 North Queensland Cowboys120160N/A1
13 Penrith Panthers0N/A220042
14 Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks0N/A120171
15 Wests Tigers0N/A120061
16 Canterbury Bulldogs0N/A120051
17 Newcastle Knights0N/A120021
18 Hunter Mariners0N/A119971
19 Canberra Raiders0N/A119891

Wins by Competition

Competition Wins
1 Super League13
2 NRL12

The Treble

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.[16]

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

Club Years Titles
Sydney Roosters1975/761975 NSWRFL Grand Final, 1975 Minor Premiership, 1976 World Club Challenge
Brisbane Broncos19921992 NSWRL Grand Final, 1992 Minor Premiership, 1992 World Club Challenge (b)
Brisbane Broncos19971997 Super League (Australia) Grand Final, 1997 Super League Minor Premiership, 1997 World Club Championship Final (a)
Bradford Bulls2001/022001 Super League Grand Final, 2001 League Leaders Shield, 2002 World Club Challenge
Bradford Bulls2003/042003 Super League Grand Final, 2003 League Leaders Shield, 2004 World Club Challenge
Leeds Rhinos2004/052004 Super League Grand Final, 2004 League Leaders Shield, 2005 World Club Challenge
St Helens2006/072006 Super League Grand Final, 2006 League Leaders Shield, 2007 World Club Challenge
St George Illawarra Dragons2010/112010 NRL Grand Final, 2010 Minor Premiership, 2011 World Club Challenge
Sydney Roosters2013/142013 NRL Grand Final, 2013 Minor Premiership, 2014 World Club Challenge
Melbourne Storm2017/182017 NRL Grand Final, 2017 Minor Premiership, 2018 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 LeedsElland Road2005, 2008, 2009, 2010
2 BoltonMacron Stadium2001, 2003, 2007
3 HuddersfieldJohn Smiths Stadium2002, 2004, 2006
4 LeedsHeadingley Carnegie Stadium2012, 2013, 2016
6 WiganDW Stadium2000, 2011, 2017
5 WiganCentral Park1987, 1992
7 SydneySydney Cricket Ground1976
8 ManchesterOld Trafford1989
9 LiverpoolAnfield1991
10 BrisbaneANZ Stadium1994
11 AucklandEricsson Stadium1997
12 SydneyAllianz Stadium2014
13 St. HelensLangtree Park2015
14 MelbourneAAMI Park2018



1994BrisbaneANZ Stadium54,220


1997AucklandEricsson Stadium12,000



The World Club Challenge has been sponsored sporadically since its formation with 7 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


  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.
  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. "Dragons to play in World Club Series". Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  10. "World Club Challenge set to be scrapped?". Retrieved 4 November 2017.
  11. "Wollongong to host historic Super League game". Retrieved 4 November 2017.
  12. 1 2 "2018 World Club Challenge: Leeds Rhinos to play Melbourne Storm in Australia". BBC Sport. 13 November 2017. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  13. "Super League: Wigan Warriors to face Hull FC in Australia in 2018". BBC Sport. 26 July 2017. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  14. "Slater injured as Storm beat Leeds in World Club Challenge". Retrieved 16 February 2018.
  15. "Storm treble enters the history books". Retrieved 20 February 2018.
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