A court decided that clubs could not break away to join the proposed Super League competition. So the existing 16 teams along with four new ones - North Queensland, Western Australia, South Queensland and Auckland - formed the 20 team ARL competition. A spiteful side of it was any player aligned with the new competition were not allowed to play in representative games, a disgraceful and divisive decision.
In 1995 Manly (Sydney) and Canberra easily led the league table and the final saw the Sydney Bulldogs defeat Manly. A Super League aligned side winning the final didn't sit well with ARL administrators. The best attended clubs were Brisbane and Auckland. Although five had averages over 20,000, the average was less than 14,000.
In 1996, the first round was hit by most SL clubs boycotting their games in protest at being forced to play in a competition they didn't want to be in. Some top players from 1995 finals winning Bulldogs side defected to ARL aligned clubs. Manly won the league again with Brisbane second. The poorly attended grand final was won by Manly over St George (Sydney). Brisbane was still had the best crowds but numbers were well down on 1995. NZ was the only other club over 20,000 and the average dropped to 11,500.
In 1997, a court ruled that the Super League was legal and two competitions were held in 1997, each with its own representative matches. As the UK and NZ were for SL, it meant only the Australian SL could have meaningful internationals. The ARL was isolated internationally. Adelaide and the Hunter Valley became new teams in SL with a record 22 professional clubs.
Combined crowd numbers were down to 11,000 on average with no team reaching 20,000. Brisbane dominated SL, while Manly and Newcastle shared the spoils for the ARL.
In 1998, a compromise was brokered and the NRL was born. A new side was created in Melbourne while the Hunter Valley, Perth and South Queensland lost out. This left a 20 team competition. Brisbane led the league from Newcastle, with the final showcased Brisbane dominance with a victory over the Bulldogs. Average attendance remained at 11,000 with Brisbane and Newcastle the only ones to break the 20k barrier.
For 1999, the Gold Coast and Adelaide lost their teams and St George (Sydney) merged with NSW club Illawarra. This meant 17 teams competed in the NRL competition. Sydney clubs Cronulla and Parramatta did best in the league but Melboune took out St George-Illawarra in the final. Attendances were now on the up, the average now 14,000. Brisbane and Newcastle the two over 20k.
The first in the series of 1990-94 can be seen by clicking here.
The next in the series for 2000-04 can be seen by clicking here.
|NRL Attendances 1995-99|