20 years of Super League

It is fair to say that Rugby League in Europe has come a long way since the launch of the Super League back in 1996. 20 years to the day, Paris St Germain met Sheffield Eagles in the opening match of Super League I, and kicked off a new era in the sport. TSZ decided to delve into the data to see which teams have led the way over the last two decades, while not forgetting the likes of PSG, who may not be around any more, but have their pride and place in history. We kick off with an all-time Super League table showing all teams that have participated in the league.

With the current teams listed in bold, it is just as fascinating to see some of the other names on the list. Who knew Gateshead Thunder had the 4th highest win percentage of all-time despite their short participation in the league?! We have highlighted the leaders in each statistic in green and the lowest ranked team in red. For fairness within the comparisons, we have included averages where feasible.

We wanted to look at the overall records, but as we have seen in recent years with the likes of Leeds Rhinos winning the Grand Final after finishing in 5th place in the league standings, the teams taking the trophies home are not always the league leaders.

The combined list of trophy winners between the League Leaders Shield, Grand Final and Challenge Cup still reads favourably for St Helens with 19 trophies overall during the last twenty years. That is virtually a trophy per season for the red and whites.

We broke the stats down a little further to examine streaks and other trends among the teams over the twenty years. Interesting how while St Helens lead the way in so many statistics, it is the Leeds Rhinos who lead the way in Grand Final wins - arguably the showpiece event in the Rugby League calendar. (Editor: Should point out we have a slightly bias Rhinos fan in our midst!)

We also wanted to see how the game had evolved in terms of points scored over the course of the two decades. Recalling back to the very first season, we saw a points high per game of 55.79 to kick the league off in style. That figure was never matched in subsequent years, and this current season sees the figure at 46.48; continuing a downward trend since 2012.

We'vee read plenty of non-competition stats highlighting the commercial successes and development of the sport over the last 20 years. Attendances shifting from 800,000 to over 2 million is one key factor in the growth of the sport. The construction of new stadia specifically for Rugby League has been another key driver. And the overall professionalisation of the game has been fundamental when it was largely an amateur sport in the early nineties. In an era where funding and money in sport is centralised so much around mainstream sports like football, to see a sport like Rugby League grow, despite the ups and downs, is a credit to the sport. We salute the Super League on its 20th Birthday!