2023 NRL: Best NRL Supported Clubs Unmasked

Shannon Meyer takes a look at which clubs are the best followed using a range of metrics from membership numbers, to crowd figures and percentage of members by population.

Related: 2024 NRL: Draw Favours Sharks, Not So Good For The Bulldogs – Winners and Losers In the Schedule

Metric: Total NRL Membership Numbers and Membership Base Growth

The teams that had a negative growth were in direct competition with other sporting codes like AFL in Melbourne. The two merger clubs that finished bottom two had a negative growth – which is no surprise.

Note: the New Zealand Warriors, Penrith Panthers, and Parramatta Eels membership numbers were not available at the time of the analysis. In the case of the Panthers and Warriors, they have stopped providing membership figures over the last few seasons.

Metric: 2023 Home Attendances

Brisbane’s rise from the bottom eight to grand finalists has seen their home attendance average crack the 30,000 mark for the first time since 2018.

The Dolphins to their credit had an average crowd of around 25,000 given some of their matches were played at the reduced capacity Kayo Stadium.

* home teams at Magic Round where the attendance figure was excluded.

Of the top 50 crowds in 2023, Brisbane and the Dolphins were ahead of rivals South Sydney Rabbitohs and Sydney Roosters. Noting, the top two sides played a majority of their games at Suncorp Stadium in a more open market (3 sides in Southeast Queensland compared to 9 sides in the Sydney region).
Top 20 attended games in 2023

If you look at stadium capacity, the resurgence of the New Zealand Warriors in the Andrew Webster era has increased their popularity while the Panthers come in second. South Sydney and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs are at the southern end of the ladder, which could suggest a move to a suburban ground would provide a better supporter experience.

There’s no surprise that regional clubs in North Queensland and Newcastle lead the way with average crowds versus population with Melbourne at the bottom end given they are trying to compete with AFL.

For Sydney we took the overall Sydney population and divided it by the number of teams based in Sydney. For Brisbane we divided by two.

Metric: Social Media Exposure

Source: footyindustry.com/html/NRL social media 2023.htm

Overall Rankings

Here is the result for the 2023 Best Supported NRL Team.

Brisbane – it probably isn’t a surprise given they have had an entire capital city to themselves for decades. Teams that have little geographic competition are high on the list, but South Sydney buck the trend with their second placed finish.

So perhaps that person in a Souths jersey everywhere in Australia is genuine.

The result is a culmination of all various categories we were able to find data for. It should be noted that the Panthers, Warriors, and Eels are missing their membership figures in this total.

2024 NRL Draw: Overall Rankings Vs Free-to-Air Television Matches

Using the Overall Rankings from above, we can compare this to the Australian free-to-air coverage data below to see any patterns between the best supported and amount of time on commercial television.

This is the result of combining the sets of data together.

The premier Queensland side and the heaviest supported New South Wales side are on the same level playing field with the bulk of the free-to-air exposure. Penrith comes in next with their three-peat complete. Melbourne makes the top 4.

The Dolphins sit mid-field with a need to increase their supporter base and get commercial television timeslot to promote their brand.

Three of the four lowest clubs come from New South Wales (including ACT’s Canberra Raiders), with not much love for the Gold Coast Titans among the five Queensland teams.

There is little commercial exposure for the might Dragons, with the Red V the worst off team in that department.

ClubSupporter RankFree-to-Air Rank
Brisbane Broncos13
South Sydney Rabbitohs22
Penrith Panthers81
Melbourne Storm46
Sydney Roosters74
North Queensland Cowboys311
Newcastle Knights105
Dolphins118
Parramatta Eels910
New Zealand Warriors517
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles157
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs616
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks169
Wests Tigers1213
Canberra Raiders1414
Gold Coast Titans1315
St George-Illawarra Dragons 1712

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