Count yourself as a bona fide fan of top flight rugby league in Australia? Then you better make sure you’re on top of the most important stats from rugby’s biggest day, so here are four NRL Grand Final statistics that every rugby league fan should know.
1. Only one player has won the Clive Churchill Medal twice
The Clive Churchill Medal is, alongside the Dally M, the most important individual accolade in the NRL, and it’s perhaps testament to just how difficult it is to win that only one player has ever managed to win it on multiple occasions since it was introduced in 1986. That player was the Raiders’ Bradley Clyde, who played a pivotal role in Canberra’s 1989 Premiership and was awarded the Clive Churchill Medal as a result, before two years later, he was again judged best afield despite the fact that his side went down by seven points to the Panthers. Many superstars of the game have competed in and won numerous Grand Finals since then, but none have managed to win this esteemed medal on more than one occasion.
2. Provan and Clay, the most experienced Grand Finalists
For most players, making a single NRL Grand Final is an achievement in itself, the realisation of a lifelong dream. Both Norm Provan and Brian Clay played in ten. For those of you with a little knowledge of the history of rugby league in Australia, it will come as no surprise that these appearances came during the St. George Dragons’ extraordinary run of 11 consecutive Premierships in the ‘50s and ‘60s (more on that below), in which these two played a huge part. Provan played in the first ten of them, finishing up his career prior to the last which they won, while Clay missed out on the first – he was playing for Griffith in 1956, but subsequently moved to the Dragons and played in a Premiership side for each of the next ten years.
3. St. George won a record 11 Premierships in succession
And now to the team for whom Provan and Clay played – unsurprisingly, that incredible run of 11 consecutive Premierships is far and away the most in the history of top-level rugby league in Australia. No team prior nor since has ever gone remotely close to matching it. South Sydney went on a streak of five consecutive Premierships and seven in eight years in the 1920s and ‘30s, while Balmain won five of six about ten years earlier, but that’s as close as it gets. In fact, in the NRL era – which began in 1998 – the Sydney Roosters are the only team to have ever won the Premiership back-to-back. Clearly the league-wide equality is significantly better now, but nonetheless it demonstrates just how incredible the Dragons’ achievement was.
4. Five players have played in GFs for three different teams
Not all players can achieve what Norm Provan and Brian Clay did with the Dragons, and for most playing in three Grand Finals is an incredible accomplishment, and one that puts them in very rare company. Narrow that criteria down to Grand Finals for three different teams, and the company gets even rarer. Only five players in the history of the top level of rugby league in Australia have ever done it; Phil Sigsworth, Glen Lazarus, Anthony Mundine, Kevin Campion and Joe Gulavau. Success, clearly, followed them wherever they went.
Over more than 100 years of rugby league in Australia, there has been ample time for plenty of intriguing statistics to develop. From the most impressive to the more obscure, the above four are among the most notable of them.