Rugby League began in 1895 as the ‘Northern Union’, when clubs in the north of England broke away from the RFU. The area was a rugby powerhouse but the clubs wanted to compensate their working-class players for time away from work, for rugby tours and injuries.
In the decade that followed, Rugby League made changes, setting itself apart from rugby union. Teams were reduced from 15 to 13 players and the play-the-ball rule was introduced. The changes made League the far more popular code in England. The increased gate-money allowed Rugby League clubs to pay benefits to the footballers the crowds had come to watch and support. Meanwhile in Australia, (NSW and Qld) and New Zealand, rugby was controlled by the rugby union bodies affiliated with the English RFU, and the predominantly working-class players and supporters in Sydney and Brisbane were disheartened by the attitude of the authorities. In the most significant player signing in the history of Rugby League, friend of high-paid Test cricketer Victor Trumper and entrepreneur James J. Giltinan, Rugby Union champion Dally Messenger secretly signed to the new Rugby League competition in 1907. With Messenger in their ranks in 1908, Rugby League grew from strength to strength. The NSWRL and QRL began to build club competition and the spectator appeal of Rugby League ensured it attracted large crowds with Easts, Souths, Balmain, Wests, Newtown, Newcastle, Norths, Glebe and Cumberland the original NSWRL Premiership clubs. Since then, Rugby League has held place as the premier winter sport of NSW and Queensland, and maintained a strong following in New Zealand. The NSWRL club competition evolved into a national competition in the 1990s and became the National Rugby League in 1998. The NRL spans the traditional League areas of NSW, Queensland and New Zealand, as well as Victoria (following the introduction of Melbourne Storm). In 2008 the code celebrated its Centenary as a professional sport in Australia and New Zealand. In 2012 the ARL Commission was formed representing a new era for Rugby League and for the millions who live and breathe the exhilaration of the Greatest Game of All.