NRL season 1998

National Rugby League season 1998

1998 saw the inaugural season of the reunited National Rugby League premiership, the 91st season of professional rugby league football in Australia. The first professional rugby league club to be based in Melbourne, the Melbourne Storm was introduced into the league, and with the closure of the Hunter Mariners, Western Reds and South Queensland Crushers, twenty teams competed for the premiership.


see also: History of the National Rugby League

The National Rugby League was formed after an agreement was reached between the two rivaling competitions from 1997, the Australian Rugby League and the Super League. In December 1997, the two parties formed a joint board to run the new Australian rugby league club competition. The vast majority of the 22 clubs that contested in 1997 across the split competitions also contested the first season of the National Rugby League, with the exception of the Hunter Mariners, the Western Reds and South Queensland.

Season summary

In all, 20 clubs contested in 1998 after the addition of a new club, Melbourne. Eleven of these clubs were from Sydney, the traditional home of the competition, but an agreement between the Australian Rugby League and Super League meant that many of these clubs were in danger of being cut from the competition by the 2000 season when only 14 clubs would be invited to contest the premiership.

Ivan Cleary's tally of 284 points was, at the time, an individual record for most points scored in a season in Australian club rugby league history; it has since been beaten on no less than five occasions.

The record for the biggest comeback in premiership history was also re-set during the 1998 season. In round 12, the North Queensland Cowboys trailed 26–0 at half-time and came back to beat the Penrith Panthers 36–28.


Adelaide Rams Auckland Warriors Balmain Tigers Brisbane Broncos Canberra Raiders
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks Gold Coast Chargers Illawarra Steelers Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Melbourne Storm Newcastle Knights North Sydney Bears North Queensland Cowboys Parramatta Eels
Penrith Panthers Sydney City Roosters South Sydney Rabbitohs St. George Dragons Western Suburbs Magpies


Super League's ad agency VCD in Sydney successfully kept the account post-reunification. The 1998 ad featured the song "Tubthumping" by Chumbawamba with its theme of rising against adversity:
I get knocked down! But I get up again; you're never gonna keep me down.

There was no visual performance of the song in the ad which returned to the standard rugby league imagery of big hits and crunching tackles to accompany the track.


Team Pld W D L PF PA PD Pts
1 Brisbane 24 18 1 5 688 310 +378 37
2 Newcastle 24 18 1 5 562 381 +181 37
3 Melbourne 24 17 1 6 546 372 +174 35
4 Parramatta 24 17 1 6 468 349 +119 35
5 North Sydney 24 17 0 7 663 367 +296 34
6 Sydney City 24 16 0 8 680 383 +297 32
7 Canberra 24 15 0 9 564 429 +135 30
8 St. George 24 13 1 10 486 490 -4 27
9 Canterbury 24 13 0 11 489 411 +78 26
10 Manly 24 13 0 11 503 473 +30 26
11 Cronulla 24 12 1 11 438 387 +51 25
12 Illawarra 24 11 1 12 476 539 -63 23
13 Balmain 24 9 1 14 381 463 -82 19
14 Penrith 24 8 2 14 525 580 -55 18
15 Auckland 24 9 0 15 417 518 -101 18
16 North Queensland 24 9 0 15 361 556 -195 18
17 Adelaide 24 7 0 17 393 615 -222 14
18 South Sydney 24 5 0 19 339 560 -221 10
19 Gold Coast 24 4 0 20 289 654 -365 8
20 Western Suburbs 24 4 0 20 371 802 -431 8

Finals series

The biggest surprise of the season was when the Melbourne Storm finished 3rd after the regular season in their first ever year, only to be knocked out by the Brisbane Broncos in the Semi Final. The Canterbury Bulldogs also surprised many, making it to the Grand Final after finishing 9th after the regular season. The Bulldogs did it tough though, coming from 16 points down twice in as many weeks. They came from 16-0 down to win 28-16 against the Newcastle Knights in the Semi Final, then 18-2 down with 11 minutes to go to make it 18-18 after regulation time, then going on to win 32-20 in extra time against the Parramatta Eels in the Preliminary Final.

Home Score Away Match Information
Date and Time Venue Referee Crowd

Qualifying Finals

Canberra Raiders 17–4 Manly Sea Eagles 28 August 1998 Bruce Stadium Bill Harrigan 15,953
St. George Dragons 12–20 Canterbury Bulldogs 29 August 1998 Jubilee Oval Steve Clark 16,833
Parramatta Eels 25–12 North Sydney Bears 29 August 1998 Parramatta Stadium Kevin Jeffes 16,033
Melbourne Storm 12–26 Sydney City Roosters 30 August 1998 Olympic Park Paul McBlane 18,247
Semi Finals

North Sydney Bears 2–23 Canterbury Bulldogs 4 September 1998 North Sydney Oval Bill Harrigan 18,718
Melbourne Storm 24–10 Canberra Raiders 5 September 1998 Olympic Park Steve Clark 12,592
Newcastle Knights 15–26 Sydney City Roosters 5 September 1998 Marathon Stadium Kevin Jeffes 26,482
Brisbane Broncos 10–15 Parramatta Eels 6 September 1998 ANZ Stadium Paul McBlane 21,172
Preliminary Finals

Newcastle Knights 16–28 Canterbury Bulldogs 12 September 1998 Sydney Football Stadium Steve Clark 24,449
Brisbane Broncos 30–6 Melbourne Storm 13 September 1998 Sydney Football Stadium Bill Harrigan 20,354

Sydney City Roosters 18–46 Brisbane Broncos 19 September 1998 ANZ Stadium Steve Clark 28,374
Parramatta Eels 20–32 Canterbury Bulldogs 20 September 1998 Sydney Football Stadium Bill Harrigan 36,841
Grand Final

Brisbane Broncos 38–12 Canterbury Bulldogs 27 September 1998 Sydney Football Stadium Bill Harrigan 40,857

Grand Final

Brisbane Broncos Position Canterbury Bulldogs
Darren Lockyer FB Rod Silva
Michael De Vere WG Gavin Lester
Steve Renouf CE Shane Marteene
Darren Smith CE Willie Talau
Wendell Sailor WG Daryl Halligan
Kevin Walters FE Craig Polla-Mounter
Allan Langer (c) HB Corey Hughes
Shane Webcke PR Darren Britt (c)
Phillip Lee HK Jason Hetherington
Andrew Gee PR Steven Price
Gorden Tallis SR Tony Grimaldi
Brad Thorn SR Robert Relf
Tonie Carroll LK Travis Norton
Michael Hancock Reserve Steve Reardon
John Plath Reserve Troy Stone
Kevin Campion Reserve Glen Hughes
Petero Civoniceva Reserve David Thompson
Wayne Bennett Coach Steve Folkes
The first NRL Grand Final was the last to be played at the Sydney Football Stadium. Despite good weather, the attendance of 40,857 was the lowest seen for a Grand Final since 1989.

In the 31st minute Steve Price stepped through an opening in the Broncos' defence then passed to Willie Talau who scored, putting the Bulldogs back in front. Canterbury held this 12–10 lead until half time.

It was Brisbane's Tonie Carroll who broke the game open less than two minutes after the break with a great try to put the Broncos back in front 16–12. The Bulldogs scored no more points in the match, swamped in the second half by five unanswered tries from Brisbane, the second coming from Wendell Sailor following through on a Steve Renouf burst out wide in the 51st minute; the third from Darren Lockyer chipping the ball through, regathering and passing to Gorden Tallis who grounded it under posts in the 60th minute; the fourth from Phillip Lee, who fought his way through in the 69th minute; and the last from a clever Alfie Langer pass to Carroll on the burst, who ran twenty metres before passing back inside for a supporting Darren Smith (in his final match for the Broncos before moving to Canterbury) who touched down on 75 minutes.

The 38 points scored by the Broncos means the match set a new record for the most points by a club in a Grand final. The 26 point margin is the second highest in the rankings of the biggest winning margins in a Grand Final. The result gave Brisbane, who had been minor premiers and premiership favourites from season's start, their fourth premiership in seven years at a time when the game was in the most turbulent phase in its history.

Brisbane Broncos 38 (Tries: De Vere, Campion, Carroll, Sailor, Tallis, Lee, Smith. Goals: Lockyer 5/7)

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 12 (Tries: Grimaldi, Talau. Goals: Halligan 2/3)

Clive Churchill Medal: Gorden Tallis

Post season

Brisbane's consistent dominance over other teams at this period of time contributed to the National Rugby League's plans to cut the number of teams down to 14 in order to ensure competitiveness and the long-term financial success of the game.

Despite the inclusion of "national" in the new competition's name, both the Gold Coast and Adelaide clubs folded at the end of the 1998 season.

The long-serving St. George team, existent since 1921, and the Illawarra team merged to form the first joint-venture side at the conclusion of the season, St. George Illawarra for inclusion in the next season.


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