This article is about the northern hemisphere rugby league competition. For the short-lived southern hemisphere competition, see the League Digest podcast.
To complement the complete histories of the NRL and the Queensland Cup, I humbly present the complete history of the northern hemisphere Super League competition. I will also, at no charge to you, include abbreviated histories of the Championship (from 2007) and League 1 (from 2009). I would go further back but the official rugby league website does not have results back that far.
This being a website that predominantly deals in statistics, I don’t intend to describe the history in words but rather in graphs. Specifically, I will use Elo ratings to chart the paths of each club.
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I do two types of Elo ratings. Form is about the short term performance of clubs, and can represent anywhere from four to eight weeks of results (calculated on the points margin of each game) depending on the draw and league, while class is about long term performance, and can represent the average of years of performance, aggregating wins and losses with small rating changes. Form is a better predictor of match results, class is a better predictor of fan disappointment.
Normally, I treat each league as a self-contained entity, which operates with an average rating of 1500. For the RFL pyramid, I took a different tack and created one class rating system to span the Challenge Cup and the three leagues. The Challenge Cup rounds and finals are weighted the same as their league equivalents and teams carry their rating through promotion and relegation between the leagues. Super League teams start with a 1600 rating, Championship on 1300 and League 1 teams on 1000. Non-league teams are given a 750 rating for Challenge Cup purposes.
Here’s how each team sits going in to the 2020 season:
If you want to see how your team’s history looks, you can jump ahead:
Hull Kingston Rovers
Updated on the back of last year’s successful use of graphs to convey the historical progress of NRL clubs, this year’s complete history now includes the stats and Eratosthenes movements from the 2018 season for each club.
Last year, I did a series of graphs which told each NRL team’s history in the top flight since 1998. Despite expectations, it was pretty well received compared to the one I was expecting to generate a bit of interest.
Now that we have all of the Queensland Cup results, I thought I’d run the same exercise. I don’t expect all that much interest but I think it’s a shame that the Queensland Cup doesn’t garner more attention. The days of 30,000 attending the BRL grand final in the 1980s has been replaced by less than 10,000 turning up to the equivalent event in the 2010s, crushed under the homogenisation of rugby league culture in Brisbane and Queensland thanks to the twin-headed Orthrus* of the Maroons and the Broncos.
Part of the solution is to create some meaningful content about it and we’ll see more of it on this website this year. This post is the starting point, literally charting the competition’s history from its inception in 1996 through the turbulent early 00s period and into the relatively stability – dare I say, optimism – of the last ten years.
*It’s like Cerberus but with two heads.
We’re talking about the clubs, not actual people, so it probably won’t be as depressing as the title implies.
This started out as an examination of which rugby league club could claim to be the best expansion team, in the same vein as the Vegas Golden Knights who disputed the NHL’s Stanley Cup in their first season. It would surprise no one to discover that the Melbourne Storm are the best expansion team of all time in rugby league, taking all of two seasons to win a premiership and then winning another
four two in just twenty years of life. That kind of precociousness is hated in children and it seems would also apply to the Victorians.
Instead, what I found more interesting was how many clubs had fallen by the wayside. The original Northern Union was founded in 1895 with twenty-two clubs while the New South Wales Rugby Football League was founded in 1908 with just nine members. How many of those were still standing after all this time?
Let’s get it done off the bat: Ruan Sims didn’t follow the rules. She had to be at the game and she wasn’t. I don’t blame her. It was a punish of a game to have to sit through for anyone other than Eels fans.
I don’t think the actual votes cast are going to matter much. If you think anyone from Parramatta or Manly is getting a Dally M nod this year, you’re an even bigger idiot than I am. Manly will be lucky to still be a first grade club by 2019 the way they’re going.
It is, however, unlucky and unfair that this befalls specifically on Sims and no one else. As a current player, she has the easiest to verify whereabouts. I have no doubt in my mind that she is neither the first nor alone amongst her judging colleagues to have submitted votes by watching a replay. Braver men might come forward to admit that they have done this as well and stand themselves down. Then we could have a sensible discussion about how the player of the year should be awarded, but that seems grossly unlikely in the current climate of hyperbolic overreaction.
In that spirit, let’s throw the whole thing in the bin and start again with something better.
Two weeks ago, you may have (but almost certainly did not) read my Complete History of the NRL: Nerd Edition.
Actually, there wasn’t much to read in the way of words and for those who aren’t so inclined to dealing with Elo ratings, Pythagorean expectation and counting premierships, possibly because you’re an Eels fan and don’t remember what victory feels like, I’ve prepared a simpler edition of the Complete History of the NRL.
The history is presented in a series of colourful graphs. The graphs track each team’s win per season and are helpfully annotated to remind you of great moments in NRL history.
And if you’re familiar with the work of Jon Bois, you’ll recognise this as eerily similar to his History of Every NFL Team video, which I have shamelessly ripped off for content.
Last year, I did a report on each NRL club featuring a bit of history, a few statistics and some graphs. The series didn’t do super well in terms of clicks but also didn’t take a lot of effort to produce.
One thing I did enjoy putting together were the class graphs. These use a slow moving Elo rating system called Eratosthenes to track the long term performance of clubs. You can see a full listing of all current ratings here.
If you’ve got the right kind of stuff between your ears (that is, if you’re a massive nerd), each picture tells each team’s thousands of words history in the NRL. To that end, I’ve updated all sixteen clubs’ graphs to the end of the 2017 season for your nerdy consumption.