|2008 National Rugby League|
|Premiers||Manly Warringah (7th title)|
|Top points scorer(s)||Luke Covell (206)|
|Player of the year||Matt Orford (Dally M Medal)|
|Top try-scorer(s)||Brett Stewart (22)|
The 2008 NRL season was the 101st season of professional rugby league club competition in Australia, and the eleventh run by the National Rugby League. For the second year, sixteen teams competed for the 2008 Telstra Premiership title. The season commenced with the first matches played on 14 March and ended with the Grand Final, played on 5 October. The premiership was won by the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles who set the record for the highest Grand Final victory in Australia's rugby league history.
2008 also marked the launch of the National Youth Competition, an under 20 competition running parallel to the senior competition under the sponsorship name, the Toyota Cup.
Rugby league was first introduced into Australia in 1907, with a meeting in Sydney on 8 August 1908 effectively forming a new breakaway league from the New South Wales Rugby Union. The new body was known as the New South Wales Rugby Football League, and became the first professional sporting code in Australia. In the following months, eight Sydney-based teams were formed and signed up to play in the New South Wales Rugby Football League's premiership, with another club joining a week into competition.
The New South Wales Rugby League continued to run the competition up until and including 1994 when it passed on responsibility to the Australian Rugby League, the national authority for rugby league in Australia. In 1997 a rival Super League competition run by News Limited was started and signed up several existing teams from the Australian Rugby League. After both bodies lost a lot of money that year, a truce was signed and a new competition was formed for the 1998 season, under the brand name "National Rugby League."
Regarded as the spiritual home of rugby league in Australia, Birchgrove Oval hosted the official launch of the NRL's 2008 Centenary rugby league season. During the season, the NRL staged a number of celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the sport in Australia. The opening match of the 2008 season was held between the remaining two "foundation clubs" from 1908, the Sydney Roosters and the South Sydney Rabbitohs. A 'Heritage round' was introduced to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the first round of competition in the New South Wales Rugby League, whereby teams faced opponents that entered the competition in similar time frames.
Several events took place to celebrate the 100th anniversary of landmark moments in rugby league in Australia. These events began in August 2007 with a re-enactment of the meeting which led to the formation of the New South Wales Rugby League, essentially the beginning of rugby league in Australia. In January and February 2008, several of the foundation clubs, the Newtown Jets, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Balmain Tigers, Sydney Roosters, North Sydney Bears and Western Suburbs Magpies, hosted special functions at the places they were officially formed.
The 2008 season was one week longer than the 2007 competition, allowing an extra bye on top of the existing one allocated to each club. In addition, the scheduling of the earlier representative fixtures was changed, including the removal of Monday Night Football on weekends prior to the City vs Country match and the ANZAC Test. The City vs Country fixture was pushed back to Friday night where it had been prior to 2007. Many of these initiatives were announced midway through the 2007 season by the Chief Executive Officer of the National Rugby League, David Gallop, in an attempt to help reduce player fatigue after several complaints of player injuries caused by the short turnaround between some matches.
2008 also saw a change in how the draw is devised, with teams nominating their preferred home opponents in order of preference. The NRL consulted these requests when structuring the season's fixtures. This change is intended to maximise attendances by allowing local derbies and other high-interest matches to be played twice a year. It is a departure from previous methods, which focused on trying to produce an equally difficult playing schedule for each club. The draw was released on 19 October 2007.
On the back of increasing public pressure, the National Rugby League decided to move the Grand Final back from the later timeslot of 7:00pm to 5:00pm. The Grand Final had traditionally been held on a Sunday afternoon up until 2000, after which it was relocated to the evening in order to accommodate the Channel 9's programming desires. Whilst the late night scheduling was not considered as much an issue for New South Wales audiences because of the Labour Day public holiday the following day, it was argued by many Queenslanders that such a time was unsuitable for families on the eve of a weekday. Many individuals in the general public and the media pushed for a full return to a 3:00pm kickoff time where it had been for many decades, whilst Channel 9 continued to insist on 7:00pm. As a compromise, the National Rugby League decided on a "twilight" match starting at 5:00pm. It was the first time since the 2000 season that the Grand Final was played in daylight, largely due to a change in commencement of Daylight Saving Time in New South Wales, ACT and Victoria in 2008.
The number of teams in the NRL remained unchanged since the previous season, with sixteen participating in the regular season: ten from New South Wales, three from Queensland and one from each of Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory and New Zealand. Of the ten from New South Wales, eight (St. George Illawarra are both from Sydney and Wollongong) are from Sydney's metropolitan area, with (St. George Illawarra being a Sydney and Wollongong joint venture. Just two foundation clubs from New South Wales Rugby League season 1908 played in this competition: the Sydney Roosters (formerly known as Eastern Suburbs) and the South Sydney Rabbitohs. The Melbourne Storm were the defending premiers.
For the first time since the 1988 introduction of teams outside of New South Wales, an under-20 competition ran incorporating sides fielded by each of the sixteen premiership clubs. The National Youth Competition, known as the Toyota Cup for sponsorship purposes was solely for under-20 players.
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For the eighth straight season the National Rugby League's maintained its naming rights sponsor Telstra with the competition again known as the Telstra Premiership. In addition to the Telstra Premiership logo appearing over the right upper chest on each team's playing jersey, the "Centenary of Rugby league in Australia" logo was displayed just above to commemorate the competition's centenary.
Following their successful sponsorship of "Friday Night Football" in 2007, the Foster's Group decided to change the specific brand sponsorship from their Carlton Draught product to now represent Victoria Bitter. Harvey Norman continued its sponsorship of the State of Origin series while AAMI also continued its association with the annual City vs Country Origin clash. Additionally, Bundaberg Rum maintained naming rights to both the ANZAC Test and Monday Night Football.
Throughout the season, various charities and other non-profit organisations received exposure on Sunday Football through Rugby League's One Community Program.
In celebration of the code's 100th anniversary the NRL and its ad agency MJW created for 2008 a Centenary Tribute ad which used historical footage of games and stars of yesteryear, blending in with action sequences of the modern day. Original epic orchestral music was used as the soundtrack. The ad opened with still imagery from 1908 to the modern day juxtaposed and rolling as though an ensemble of players are entering the Sydney Cricket Ground from the dressing rooms in the Members Stand.
The morphed film segments included a 1930s Australia v England Test with modern Australian players in the backline; Wayne Pearce in the 1980s on the sideline at the Sydney Cricket Ground next to a mud covered 1960s player and a sequence where Darren Lockyer circa 2000 takes a pass from Clive Churchill circa 1950. Clever touches include Dragons Mark Gasnier backing up his uncle Reg Gasnier some 40 years apart; Sharks stars of different generations, Steve Rogers and Andrew Ettingshausen running together and Souths' Craig Wing in 2008 putting Ron Coote through a gap in 1968. The final shot shows the 2008 version of Norm Provan and Arthur Summons covered head to toe in mud & recreating the "Gladiators" image from the 1963 Grand Final acknowledged by the 2007 Grand Finalists Cameron Smith and Greg Inglis in front of iconic images of Grand Finals gone by including John Sattler being chaired from the field in 1971 while Brad Fittler celebrates his 2002 win and Bradley Clyde his 1994 premiership.
|7||St. George Illawarra||24||13||0||11||2||489||378||+111||30|
For the first time since the 1999 season, the team finishing in 8th spot won more games than it had lost. It should be also noted that on that occasion, 17 teams were in the competition.
|7||St. George Illawarra||0||2||2||2||2||2||4||6||6||8||10||12||14||16||18||20||22||22||22||24||24||24||26||28||30||30|
The National Rugby League employs the McIntyre Final Eight System and, for the second year running, preliminary finals were allowed to be played outside of Sydney.
|Date and Time||Venue||Referee||Crowd|
|Sydney Roosters||16 – 24||Brisbane Broncos||12 September 2008, 8:00pm||Sydney Football Stadium||Tony Archer||18,343|
|Cronulla Sharks||36 – 10||Canberra Raiders||13 September 2008, 6:30pm||Toyota Stadium||Jared Maxwell||18,252|
|Manly Sea Eagles||38 – 6||St. George Illawarra Dragons||13 September 2008, 8:30pm||Brookvale Oval||Shayne Hayne||19,227|
|Melbourne Storm||15 – 18||New Zealand Warriors||14 September 2008, 4:00pm||Olympic Park||Jason Robinson||15,193|
|New Zealand Warriors||30 – 13||Sydney Roosters||19 September 2008, 8:30pm||Mt Smart Stadium||Tony Archer||25,595|
|Brisbane Broncos||14 – 16||Melbourne Storm||20 September 2008, 7:45pm||Suncorp Stadium||Shayne Hayne||50,466|
|Cronulla Sharks||0 – 28||Melbourne Storm||26 September 2008, 7:45pm||Sydney Football Stadium||Tony Archer||27,570|
|Manly Sea Eagles||32 – 6||New Zealand Warriors||27 September 2008, 7:45pm||Sydney Football Stadium||Shayne Hayne||32,095|
|Qualifying Finals||Semi Finals||Preliminary Finals||Grand Final|
|2||Manly||38||4W||New Zealand||30||New Zealand||6|
|7||St. George Illawarra||6||2L||Sydney||13||Manly||40|
Sunday, 5 October
|Manly Warringah Sea Eagles||40 - 0||Melbourne Storm|
Matt Ballin 24'
Michael Robertson 34', 47', 52'
Brent Kite 58'
David Williams 68'
Steve Menzies 73'
Steven Bell 76'
Matt Orford (0/2)
Steve Matai (2/4)
Jamie Lyon (2/2)
|Player||2007 Club||2008 Club|
|Shaun Berrigan||Brisbane Broncos||Super League: Hull F.C.|
|Dane Carlaw||Brisbane Broncos||Super League: Catalans Dragons|
|Petero Civoniceva||Brisbane Broncos||Penrith Panthers|
|Andrew Lomu||Brisbane Broncos||Retirement|
|Brent Tate||Brisbane Broncos||New Zealand Warriors|
|Brad Thorn||Brisbane Broncos||Crusaders (Super 14)|
|Matt Bickerstaff||Canberra Raiders||Retirement|
|Michael Dobson||Canberra Raiders||Super League: Hull Kingston Rovers|
|Andrew Dunemann||Canberra Raiders||Retirement|
|David Howell||Canberra Raiders||Super League: Harlequins RL|
|Willie Mason||Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs||Sydney Roosters|
|Mark O'Meley||Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs||Sydney Roosters|
|Cameron Phelps||Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs||Super League: Wigan Warriors|
|Brent Sherwin||Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs||Super League: Castleford Tigers|
|Adam Dykes||Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks||Super League: Hull F.C.|
|Josh Hannay||Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks||Celtic Crusaders|
|Matt Hilder||Gold Coast Titans||Newcastle Knights|
|Richard Mathers||Gold Coast Titans||Super League: Wigan Warriors|
|Matt Petersen||Gold Coast Titans||Super League: Wakefield Trinity Wildcats|
|Jake Webster||Gold Coast Titans||Super League: Hull Kingston Rovers|
|Travis Burns||Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles||North Queensland Cowboys|
|Chris Hicks||Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles||Super League: Warrington Wolves|
|Michael Monaghan||Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles||Super League: Warrington Wolves|
|Ben Cross||Melbourne Storm||Newcastle Knights|
|Garret Crossman||Melbourne Storm||Super League: Hull Kingston Rovers|
|Matt King||Melbourne Storm||Super League: Warrington Wolves|
|Clint Newton||Melbourne Storm||Super League: Hull Kingston Rovers|
|Daniel Abraham||Newcastle Knights||North Queensland Cowboys|
|Riley Brown||Newcastle Knights||Sydney Roosters|
|George Carmont||Newcastle Knights||Super League: Wigan Warriors|
|Andrew Johns||Newcastle Knights||Retirement|
|Josh Perry||Newcastle Knights||Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles|
|Kirk Reynoldson||Newcastle Knights||St. George Illawarra Dragons|
|Mitchell Sargent||Newcastle Knights||Super League: Castleford Tigers|
|Milton Thaiday||Newcastle Knights||Retirement|
|Brad Tighe||Newcastle Knights||Penrith Panthers|
|Adam Woolnough||Newcastle Knights||Penrith Panthers|
|Louis Anderson||New Zealand Warriors||Super League: Warrington Wolves|
|Todd Byrne||New Zealand Warriors||Super League: Hull F.C.|
|George Gatis||New Zealand Warriors||Super League: Huddersfield Giants|
|Tony Martin||New Zealand Warriors||Super League: Wakefield Trinity Wildcats|
|Brenton Bowen||North Queensland Cowboys||Gold Coast Titans|
|Paul Bowman||North Queensland Cowboys||Retirement|
|David Faiumu||North Queensland Cowboys||Super League: Huddersfield Giants|
|Jason Smith||North Queensland Cowboys||Retirement|
|Aaron Cannings||Parramatta Eels||Gold Coast Titans|
|Richie Fa'aoso||Parramatta Eels||Newcastle Knights|
|Ian Hindmarsh||Parramatta Eels||Retirement|
|PJ Marsh||Parramatta Eels||Brisbane Broncos|
|Tim Smith||Parramatta Eels||Super League: Wigan Warriors|
|Timana Tahu||Parramatta Eels||New South Wales Waratahs (Super 14)|
|Joel Clinton||Penrith Panthers||Brisbane Broncos|
|Matthew Cross||Penrith Panthers||Gold Coast Titans|
|Craig Gower||Penrith Panthers||Aviron Bayonnais (French rugby)|
|Bryan Norrie||Penrith Panthers||Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks|
|Peter Wallace||Penrith Panthers||Brisbane Broncos|
|Nick Youngquest||Penrith Panthers||Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs|
|Peter Cusack||South Sydney Rabbitohs||Super League: Hull F.C.|
|Joe Galuvao||South Sydney Rabbitohs||Parramatta Eels|
|Paul Mellor||South Sydney Rabbitohs||Retirement|
|David Peachey||South Sydney Rabbitohs||Retirement|
|Shane Rigon||South Sydney Rabbitohs||Retirement|
|Stuart Webb||South Sydney Rabbitohs||St. George Illawarra Dragons|
|Wes Naiqama||St. George Illawarra Dragons||Newcastle Knights|
|Corey Payne||St. George Illawarra Dragons||Wests Tigers|
|Adam Peek||St. George Illawarra Dragons||Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks|
|Ashton Sims||St. George Illawarra Dragons||Brisbane Broncos|
|Danny Wicks||St. George Illawarra Dragons||Newcastle Knights|
|Chris Beattie||Sydney Roosters||Lézignan Sangliers|
|Ashley Harrison||Sydney Roosters||Gold Coast Titans|
|Heath L'Estrange||Sydney Roosters||Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles|
|Joel Monaghan||Sydney Roosters||Canberra Raiders|
|Danny Nutley||Sydney Roosters||Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks|
|Craig Wing||Sydney Roosters||South Sydney Rabbitohs|
|Daniel Fitzhenry||Wests Tigers||Super League: Hull Kingston Rovers|
|Ben Galea||Wests Tigers||Super League: Hull Kingston Rovers|
|Jason Moodie||Wests Tigers||Retirement|
|Paul Whatuira||Wests Tigers||Super League: Huddersfield Giants|
|Ben Harris||Super League: Bradford Bulls||North Queensland Cowboys|
|Ian Henderson||Super League: Bradford Bulls||New Zealand Warriors|
|Mathew Head||Super League: Hull F.C.||Wests Tigers|
|Brent Grose||Super League: Warrington Wolves||Sydney Roosters|
|Michael Sullivan||Super League: Warrington Wolves||Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs|
|David Vaealiki||Super League: Wigan Warriors||Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles|
|Sean Rudder||Ricoh Black Rams (Japanese rugby)||Sydney Roosters|
|Wendell Sailor||N/A||St. George Illawarra Dragons|
2008 representative games
Team season articles
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