Melbourne Storm stun fans with surprising support ahead of NRL grand final

The stunning NRL survey will surprise many Aussie sport fans.

Reece Walsh celebrates and Cameron Smith celebrates with his Melbourne Storm teammates.
Melbourne Storm are Australia's favourite rugby league team, according to new data by Roy Morgan. (Getty Images)

They haven't won a premiership since 1986 and sit firmly in the shadow of western rivals Penrith, but Parramatta remains the most popular NRL club in Sydney while the Melbourne Storm are Australia's favourite rugby league team. That's the surprise findings from a new survey into the leanings of sports fans around the country.

According to data from Roy Morgan, drawn from interviewing 60,000 Australians, the Storm are the most widely supported rugby league team in the country with 1,197,000 fans. That's despite being smack bang in the middle of AFL heartland and only arriving in the NRL 25 years ago.

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The Storm's popularity has been attributed to its success over a sustained period. The Eels, who last tasted grand final success 37 years ago, have continued to surge in popularity despite their lengthening premiership drought.

Neighbour Penrith – into their fourth successive grand final and shooting for a three-peat against Brisbane on Sunday night - surprisingly sit well below their arch-rivals in eighth spot overall. Cronulla is the least popular Sydney club, according to the survey, while the Gold Coast Titans have the fewest followers in the competition.

"The Melbourne Storm have been the most successful NRL team over the last two decades since 2003, playing in nine grand finals and winning five of them (although two were stripped due to salary cap violations)," Julian McCrann, Roy Morgan's Communications Director, explained.

"The sustained period of success has powered the club to the top of the Roy Morgan NRL supporter ladder for the third year in a row.

"In clear second place is the Brisbane Broncos with 1.15 million supporters, up 94,000 (+8.9%) on a year ago and closing the gap significantly on the Storm after the Broncos' best home and away season for over two decades.

"The increase in support for the Broncos over the last year is especially impressive given the entry of a second team from Brisbane."

Nathan Cleary runs the ball.
The Panthers' popularity is growing following their sustained success. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Penrith Panthers support on the rise

Penrith's rise in popularity has coincided with the Panthers' on-field success over the past four years, although it's still not been enough to beat the love for Parramatta.

"The recent success has clearly given the ‘Mountain Men’ a huge boost in support in recent years, almost doubling since 2020 and increasing by a massive 171,000 (+91%) over the last three years to 359,000," McCrann continued.

"But the most widely supported NRL club in Sydney is again the Parramatta Eels with 494,000 supporters, up 138,000 (+30.3%) on a year ago, following the club’s first grand final in 13 years." The Roy Morgan poll also found overall support for the NRL was up early 12 per cent on last year, with 7.2m Australians – or one in three of us – following a team.

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