If you time-travelled back to early 1900s Sydney, you might see rugby league pioneers playing a game that resembled rugby union. Rugby league evolved slowly in Australia, reflecting events at a societal level. It was established soon after federation, and both the ‘league game’ and ‘indissoluble’ Commonwealth lived tenuous lives at first. World War II boosted both, and league’s first major change from union occurred in 1967, followed by another in 1993.
There are at least four distinct eras in rugby league history. Comparisons between these eras can and should be made to understand the game’s history and our place in it. The fifth era of rugby league in Australia, known as ‘V’landys-ball’, began in May 2020 when the NRL Commission and its Chair ratified rule changes, including removing one on-field referee and replacing many penalties with a six-again call.
‘V’Landys-ball’ has seen successes, such as increased ball play and reduced ruck-wrestling, but point-scoring is not yet at historic levels, and blowout games have become more frequent. Field goals have also become more common. In 2023, the league passed 90,000 total points, and teams have achieved significant milestones.
The Dolphins, a new team, became the fourth expansion club since 1908 to win their first premiership game in their first season. Unofficial champions, the Dolphins won in round 27. The all-time power rankings for NRL teams have been filled, and the time has come to decide who is the greatest team of all.