The latest data from Roy Morgan shows the total NRL supporter base has grown marginally from a year ago, up 0.5 per cent to nearly 6.4 million Australians aged 14+ (30.1 per cent) in 2022 as the code emerged from two heavily COVID-interrupted seasons in 2020-21.
The NRL was forced to relocate all 16 clubs to Queensland last season after large outbreaks of COVID-19 in the key market of New South Wales as well as the secondary markets of Victoria and the ACT. In addition, the border to New Zealand remained closed throughout last season with the NZ Warriors able to play their first home game in their own country since 2019 only less than three weeks ago.
The good news for the NRL is that despite the upheavals of the last two years, support for the clubs has strengthened with 10 of the 16 clubs experiencing an increase in support from 2021.
The Melbourne Storm have again topped the ladder as the most widely supported NRL club in 2022 with 1,199,000 supporters, an increase of 1.7 per cent on a year ago following the club’s fifth official ‘Minor Premiership’ in 2021 though the club failed to successfully defend its 2020 Premiership victory.
In second is the Brisbane Broncos, the only other club with over 1 million supporters on 1,025,000, a small increase of 0.7 per cent on a year ago as the club chase their first finals victory for five years since 2017.
The most widely supported Sydney-based club is again the Parramatta Eels with 460,000 supporters, an increase of 0.4 per cent on a year ago. The Eels have the longest drought of any NRL club with the team not winning a Premiership for nearly forty years since 1986.
The reigning NRL Premiers the Penrith Panthers have experienced the biggest increase in support over the past year increasing by 86,000 (+38.9 per cent) to 307,000 following their 2021 Premiership victory.
There were three other 2021 finalists to increase their support over the last year led by the South Sydney Rabbitohs, up 8.4 per cent to 440,000 and in fourth place overall as well as the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, up 12.5% to 298,000 and the Gold Coast Titans, up marginally by 0.2 per cent to 131,000.
Other clubs to increase their support include the Wests Tigers, up 0.3 per cent to 337,000, the Cronulla Sharks, up 15.4 per cent to 210,000 and the New Zealand Warriors, up 7.9 per cent to 164,000 despite not playing any home games in New Zealand throughout either the 2020 or 2021 NRL seasons.
In addition to growth in support for a majority of clubs the NRL consistently rates as one of Australia’s favourite ‘TV products’. Over 6 million (28.4 per cent) Australians now watch the NRL on TV, up 1.1% on a year ago when many viewers were in forced lockdown in the code’s largest market in New South Wales.
Overall, ten NRL clubs increased their support in the year to March 2022 including six clubs based in the NRL heartland of suburban Sydney. Detailed in-depth profiles of NRL Supporters, Australians who watch NRL on TV, Australians who play Rugby League and profiles of supporters of all 16 NRL clubs are available on the Roy Morgan Online Store for those keen to learn more about the sport.