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EDITORIAL | The History of Australian Rugby League Logos

A good logo is a vital marketing tool for any sporting competition. The NBA and MLB are famous for their iconic red, white, and blue silhouette logos. Since 1983, the Australian Rugby League have had a number of logos: some due to new competitions, some pure design choices. In lieu of any actual footy to talk about, NothingButLeague will deep dive into the history of the Australian Rugby League logos, from the NSWRL, ARL, Super League, and NRL competitions.

NSWRFL (1983-1984)

It took 75 years for the New South Wales Rugby League to use its logo on the jerseys. While it was only around for a decade, it’s become one of the most iconic logos in Australian sport (at least on the eastern seaboard). Owing to its New South Wales roots, there’s a lot of blue: a light blue base with a dark blue border around the shield, and “NSWRFL” (New South Wales Rugby Football League) also in dark blue, with the “RFL” standing out. The blue is broken up by some vertical white lines and there’s a red footy at the top of the logo.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1919_NSWRFL_season

NSWRL (1985-1994)

There was a minor change to the logo in 1985, with the “F” disappearing. This style lasted for 10 years, before the NSWRL expanded.

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/97390410662554506/?autologin=true

VERDICT = a classic design.

ARL (1995-1997)

The inclusion of the South Queensland Crushers, Western Reds, North Queensland Cowboys, and Auckland Warriors to the renamed Australian Rugby League meant a logo change too.

Desperate to shed their suburban Sydney roots*, the ARL logo replaced the NSW blue for Aussie green and gold. Like the Australian jersey, the logo had a green base and gold chevrons, with a green, gold, and white footy at the bottom. A new major sponsor (Optus) in 1996 and 1997 meant a small change: a dark green shield surrounding the main logo, with OPTUS and ‘yes’ (one of Mr Burns’ favourite greetings) on the top and bottom.

Embed from Getty Images

It was the first time the sponsor would appear on the logo, something that telco rival Telstra would embrace.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Rugby_League

* = Oddly, the ARL renamed the Eastern Suburbs Roosters as “Sydney City”, and the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and Balmain Tigers both as “Sydney”. The Bulldogs and Tigers quickly reverted to their traditional names, while the Roosters adopted the “Sydney” title in 2000.

VERDICT = Aussie green and gold replaces NSW blue and it looks great, with Optus getting their piece of real estate.

Super League (1997)

While it may bring back painful memories for non-Broncos fans, the Super League logo was simple and effective. There was no “RL” or any footballs on the logo: instead it was a basic, shiny, orange “S”. Not as iconic as the Superman logo, but it did the job.

Embed from Getty Images

Super League made sure fans remembered by sticking the logo in the middle of all the jerseys (club, state and country), with the colour changing based on each team. The UK Super League  kept the logo as their competition continued, before a recent redesign.

The Super League War – The Battle For Control Of The Game

VERDICT = it brings back painful memories, but it does the job.

NRL Original (1998-2000)

When the game reunited for the 1998 season, there was another new name, and another logo. The NRL logo’s had a surprising amount of tweaks in only 20 years, and the original version only lasted three years. The green and gold were back, with two big black chevrons (Why black? Who knows?), and a contrasting black and white footy at the top.

https://logos.fandom.com/wiki/NRL_Premiership

VERDICT = another classic design, untainted by corporate branding (for now).

NRL Trophy Design (2001-2006)

Four years into the new competition, and it was time for a change. The new logo resembled the shape of the Telstra Premiership trophy. It was a bit more colourful, with the blue and orange Telstra colours replacing the green, gold, and black. Telstra, of course, stuck their logo bang in the middle, with the “NRL” font much smaller than before. Was it a corporate powerplay by Telstra, or a simple design choice?

https://logos.fandom.com/wiki/NRL_Premiership

VERDICT = the trophy shape is a nice touch, though the colours are a bit generic and corporate-y (the green and gold is far better), with Telstra dominating the logo.

NRL Blue (2007-2012)

As the game approached its centenary, the NRL went back to the NSWRL blue. The updated logo reverted to the original NRL design, with Telstra again dominating – its name and logo right in the middle – with “NRL” tucked up the top. The black and white footy of the original NRL logo returned.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_NRL_season

VERDICT = the blue returns, though Telstra hogs the limelight again.

Centenary of Rugby League Logo (2008)

The NRL introduced a special centenary logo, to sit above the NRL logo on the jerseys. It had green and gold chevrons, the numbers “1908” and “2008” in green, and a giant white “A” in the middle. It looked appropriately old-fashioned, and quite pretty. The best part? No Telstra logo to ruin it.

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/2008_NRL_season

VERDICT = a beautiful design with no Telstra in sight.

NRL Green and Gold (2013-2018)
After six years with the blue logo, the NRL returned to green and gold in arguably their best logo. While Telstra’s logo was at the top, “NRL” was back in big letters, with the Aussie gold chevrons and, in a genius choice, the “Gladiators” trophy in the middle. For those who don’t know, it’s the iconic pose of a muddied Norm Provan and Arthur Summons after the 1963 grand final. The pose was immortalised on the Winfield Cup trophy from 1982 to 1995, and returned for the NRL trophy from 1998.
https://www.roosters.com.au/news/2014/02/24/record-investment-in-rugby-league/
VERDICT = easily the BEST NRL logo. The green and gold is back, and the Gladiators trophy is a beautiful touch.
NRL Minimal (2019-current)
The current NRL logo design is quite controversial. Looking like the first draft of a more ambitious design, the logo strips away all that was great about previous ones: there’s no green and gold, no Gladiators trophy, and no footy. Even the chevrons have been minimised. There’s no colour to the logo, instead adopting the colour of the jersey it sits on (similar to the Super League badge). Of course, Telstra’s logo has stayed, but has lost its usual orange and blue colour.
https://www.nineforbrands.com.au/brand/nrl/
VERDICT = with no footy and no colour, it’s more like a soulless corporate logo than a rugby league one.
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