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The NRL Match-Up: Biggest rivalries


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We compare the best rivalries in rugby league.

With the NRL back bigger and better than ever, we thought we'd do what we do best at Finder and start comparing everything NRL. Each week we take a look at one aspect of the game, from the spectacular to the silly, to see who comes out on top.

Finder's Thursday Night Football – North Queensland Cowboys vs Brisbane Broncos, 7:50pm AEST, 1300SMILES Stadium

Local derbies, long-running feuds and fiery flare-ups have long been part of rugby league's fabric, and the NRL is built on traditional and modern rivalries. We weigh up the league's best rivalries and choose our favourite.

The contenders

2010 NRL Round 15 - Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks v St. George Illawarra Dragons, Shark Park, 2010-06-20. Digital image by © NRL Photos

St. George Illawarra Dragons vs Cronulla Sutherland Sharks

One of the few local rivalries to remain relatively unscathed following the Super League split and subsequent club mergers, the fight for Sydney's south is always hotly contested.

With home grounds separated by less than 10 kilometres and around a dozen train stops, it's a rivalry built on familiarity and proximity, but came into its own during the 1999 season. The Sharks finished as minor premiers before bowing out to the Dragons in the preliminary final following St. George's stunning second half comeback.

2018 NRL Round PF - Sydney Roosters v South Sydney Rabbitohs, Allianz Stadium, 2018-09-22. Digital image by Nathan Hopkins © NRL Photos

Sydney Roosters vs South Sydney Rabbitohs

The longest-standing rivalry in Australian rugby league has been going strong since the inaugural NSWRFL season in 1908. 111 years on and it's still as fierce as ever, especially given the recent success of both sides.

Despite struggling for the best part of a decade after their readmission in 2002, South Sydney have since upped their game, making their matches against the dominant Roosters some of the most competitive around.

The Rabbitohs beat their bitter rivals on the way to their first NRL premiership in 2014, before the Roosters returned the favour in last year's preliminary final. It was the last game to be played at the Sydney Football Stadium and fittingly broke the ground's record attendance figure.

2015 NRL Round GF - Brisbane Broncos v North Queensland Cowboys, ANZ Stadium, 2015-10-04. Digital image by Grant Trouville © NRL Photos

Brisbane Broncos vs North Queensland Cowboys

The only true rivalry north of the border, the Queensland derby has been dominated by Brisbane since their first meeting in 1995. The Broncos have won 33 of their 52 matches against the Cowboys, but went down in the most important of them all.

The 2015 Grand Final became an instant classic when Jonathan Thurston missed a game-winning conversion before kicking the decisive field goal in extra time to give the Cowboys their first premiership. It instantly became the stuff of NRL folklore and crystallised the rivalry as one of the biggest in the modern game.

The verdict

Sydney Roosters vs South Sydney Rabbitohs

No other rivalry can really match the history, hatred or current competitiveness of league's oldest local derby. With the way both sides are looking this season, there's every chance the rivalry will be able to add another exciting chapter come finals time.

Don't agree with our picks? Have your say below.

Images: NRL

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