Who has won the most NRL premierships - and who has the longest drought?

Chris Young
Sports Reporter

The premiership is the ultimate prize in NRL, although fans of some teams could be forgiven for forgetting what the coveted trophy looks like.

The last decade was one of the most competitive in the league’s history.

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Only one team, they Sydney Roosters, won more than one premiership in the previous 10 seasons - though the Roosters were far and away the most successful team of the decade.

So while Roosters fans might not be clamouring for a long-awaited triumph after lifting the trophy in 2013, 2018 and 2019, other clubs have been waiting a pretty long time for the sweet taste of victory.

Only two teams are yet to win in the modern era - so where does your club stand?

New Zealand Warriors - 0 premierships

The NRL hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for the Warriors, and New Zealand’s dominance in rugby will come as cold comfort for those league diehards across the Tasman.

Since joining the league in 1995, the Warriors have only made the finals eight times.

It hasn’t been all doom and gloom for the Warriors though, considering they’ve managed to ride out a near collapse in 2000 and an unfortunate salary cap breach in 2006 which cost them premiership points before the season even began.

Nevertheless, grand final losses in 2002 and 2011 are proof the club has what it takes to get to the top - it’s staying there that’s the problem.

Gold Coast Titans - 0 premierships

The only other team in the league not to have tasted the ultimate success, the Titans unfortunately cannot boast the track record of competitiveness New Zealand’s best teams can since joining the NRL in 2007.

Having only made the finals twice, in 2009 and 2016, the Titans have plenty of work to do.

Like the Warriors, the Gold Coast Titans have managed to ride out some dire financial straights - but need to bounce back in a big way from a tumultuous 2019 season.

New head coach Justin Holbrook takes over from Garth Brennan, and is tasked with righting the ship after a downright uncompetitive season last year.

Wests Tigers - 1 premiership

Yes, league purists will point out the obvious.

While the Balmain Tigers and Western Suburbs Magpies won a combined 15 premierships before merging in 1999, the team as it’s known today has only hoisted the Provan-Summons trophy once, back in 2005.

Led by Clive Churchill medallist and captain Scott Prince, the Tigers rode scorching hot form in the latter half of the season all the way through the finals, despite beginning the season as rank outsiders in premiership odds.

The Wests Tigers celebrate victory after the 2005 NRL Grand Final. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

Their 30-16 win over the North Queensland Cowboys made them the first team to win a grand final on their first attempt since Newtown back in 1910.

St George Illawarra Dragons - 1 premiership

The St George Dragons were one of rugby league’s most successful teams before their merger with the Illawarra Steelers, claiming 15 premierships before joining forces with their regional rivals.

It took them just over a decade to add to their trophy cabinet after the newly merged club debuted in the NRL, with their only title coming in 2010.

That year also marked the first time a team had won two NRL minor premierships in a row, since the league’s 1998 revamp.

North Queensland Cowboys - 1 premiership

The Cowboys’ lone triumph, the 2015 premiership, was one of the most memorable games in the league’s history.

In an unforgettable contest, it was a golden point field goal from club great Johnathan Thurston who fittingly delivered the Queensland outfit’s first, and only, taste of ultimate success.

They made the grand final on two other occasions, in 2005 and 2017.

The Cowboys also appeared in the finals for seven consecutive seasons, from 2011 to 2017.

Cronulla Sharks - 1 premiership

To say the 2010s were a tumultuous time for the Sharks is the ultimate understatement.

Perhaps ‘tumultuous’ isn’t quite the right word though - in just a couple of seasons, Cronulla managed to bounce back from the shame of their 2013 supplements scandal to win the 2016 premiership - their first since the club’s inception in 1967.

Second-rower Luke Lewis was best on ground as the Sharks held off the Melbourne Storm, 14-12, to secure the club’s first trophy in its then 50-year history.

Penrith Panthers - 2 premierships

It’s been a decidedly lean 17 years for Panthers fans, after they last hoisted the trophy in 2003.

After joining the league in 1967, they broke through for their first premiership when they avenged a grand final loss to the Canberra Raiders from the previous season in 1991, prevailing 19-12.

A 12-year drought was broken when they toppled the highly touted Sydney Roosters 18-6.

Since then, the Panthers have struggled to find consistency, frequently missing the finals and failing to make an impact in the finals more often than not.

Newcastle Knights - 2 premierships

Similar to the Panthers, the 1990s and early 2000s represented the most successful era for the Knights.

Premiership victories in 1997 and 2001 were the high point in an era of dominance, with Newcastle making the top eight for seven straight seasons, from 1997 to 2003.

Since then, the Knights have struggled - rarely making the finals since.

Melbourne Storm - 3 premierships

The NRL’s only Victorian team won premierships in 1999, 2012 and 2017 - but there’s a salary cap-sized elephant in the room when it comes to the Storm’s premiership success.

After declaring in 2010 that the club had made payments to players in excess of $3 million outside the salary cap, the Storm were stripped of their 2007 and 2009 NRL premierships.

The NRL chose to withhold both premierships, rather than award them to the runners-up in each year.

After playing for no premiership points in 2010, the the Storm lost to the New Zealand Warriors in the 2011 preliminary final before returning to the grand final in 2012, where they defeated the Canterbury Bulldogs 14-4.

Canberra Raiders - 3 premierships

It’s been a long time between drinks for the Green Machine.

A powerhouse of the league in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Raiders haven’t been able to match that level of success since the turn of the century.

After back to back premierships in 1989-1990, the Raiders’ most recent premiership came in 1994 - giving club legend Mal Meninga a fairytale farewell.

Steve Walters, Ricky Stuart, Mal Meninga, Laurie Daley, Bradley Clyde and Brett Mullins of the Raiders celebrate after winning the 1994 ARL Grand Final between the Canberra Raiders and the Canterbury Bulldogs. The Raiders won 36-12. (Photo by Getty Images)

Unfortunately for the Raiders, their campaigns since have generally gone about as well as Meninga’s short-lived tilt at politics, although their grand final loss in 2019 should give their fans hope heading into a new decade.

Parramatta Eels - 4 premierships

The Eels were on cloud nine after winning three consecutive premierships from 1981 to 1983, and then a fourth in 1986.

Unfortunately, they haven’t found a way to add to the trophy cabinet since, making theirs the longest premiership drought in the NRL.

Tipped to be among the league’s worst in 2019, the Eels defied their critics to storm into the finals, even claiming a league-record 58-0 elimination final victory over the Brisbane Broncos.

For their fans’ sake, the Eels will be hoping they can build on that momentum for 2020 and beyond.

Brisbane Broncos - 6 premierships

After joining the league in 1988, it didn’t take the Broncos long to establish themselves as a powerhouse club.

Back to back premierships in in 1992-93 were backed up by another back-to-back feat, this time in 1997-98.

A fifth flag in 2000 was followed up with another in 2006, but the return of club legend Wayne Bennett in 2015 peaked with a grand final appearance in his first year back.

Though it’s been a while since their last premiership, the Broncos have only missed the finals five times in their 31-year history - a record that almost every other club would envy.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs - 8 premierships

One of the real legacy clubs in league, the Bulldogs boast a consistent record of success dating back to their first flag, in 1938.

Their second came in 1942, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that the Bulldogs announced themselves as a dominant force.

Premierships in 1980, 1984, 1985 and 1988 made that decade by far the club’s most successful, while wins in 1997 and 2004 ensured the 80s weren’t a one-off purple patch.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles - 8 premierships

Before the Bulldogs dominated the 1980s, it was the Sea Eagles who owned the 1970s.

Back to back premiership wins in 1972-73 were followed up with wins in 1976 and 1978.

The 70s weren’t a one-off though, with Manly triumphing once in each decade that followed - 1987, 1996, 2008 and 2011.

Sydney Roosters - 15 premierships

As one of the oldest clubs in the league, it should come as no surprise that the Roosters have one of the most impressive trophy cabinets going around.

While many of their premierships came in the pre and post-war era (1911–13, 1923, 1935–37, 1940, 1945), the Roosters have also been one of the most successful clubs in the modern era.

The Sydney Roosters celebrate with the premiership trophy after winning the 2019 NRL Grand Final against the Canberra Raiders. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Back to back wins in 1974-75 were followed by a lengthy drought, before the Roosters finally broke through in 2002.

Sydney emerged as the team to beat in the 2010s, winning in 2013 before going back to back in 2018 and 2019.

South Sydney Rabbitohs - 21 premierships

Much like the Roosters, it’s only natural that the Rabbitohs have one of the biggest trophy cabinets in the league - having formed in 1908.

The bulk of South Sydney’s premiership success came very early in their existence, with wins in 1908–09, 1914, 1918, 1925–29, 1931–32 and 1950–51.

A hat-trick of premierships in 1953–55 was followed the next decade with back-to-back wins in 1967–68.

Another two premierships in 1970 and 1971 preceded a slow decline for the club, which ultimately culminated in their exclusion from the newly formed NRL at the end of the 1999 season.

Two years in the wilderness, a two-year court battle and the intervention of actor Russell Crowe resulted in the club being reinstated ahead of the 2003 season.

It would be nearly a decade before the Rabbitohs finally tasted premiership glory in the 2014 season, capping one of the most remarkable comeback stories in rugby league history.