This weekend marks 25 years since Super League commenced with the competition evolving and changing a lot since the beginning in 1996.
Traditionally the top English competition would begin in Autumn and finish in the Spring as with the other professional sporting codes in Britain however Super League was to align with the ARL competition, meaning teams had just over a month to prepare for the upcoming campaign.
It was on the 23rd of March 1996 that expansion club Paris Saint Germain hosted the Sheffield Eagles in what was the first ever game in Super League history with the French outfit managing to get the win 30–24.
Former Sheffield Eagles player Keith Senior remembered the game fondly when speaking to Sky Sports:
“Looking at the bigger picture, we didn’t get the result but for the brand of Super League, the Paris team and everything the evening was about it was the perfect scenario” said Senior.
Fortunes would soon change for PSG tho as they would just manage to escape relegation by two points with Workington Town being the unlucky team facing relegation in the first season.
St. Helens would be crowned league champions finishing in first place one point ahead of Wigan. They then went on to compete in a premiership play-off series along side Wigan, Bradford and London where they would end up losing in the final to the Warriors 44-14.
Since then Super League has gone on to become one of the premier Rugby League competitions in the world and has been the catalyst for global expansion.
Sadly Paris Saint Germain Rugby League no longer exist and many other clubs from the inaugural season are now toiling away in the lower divisions, but we now have French club Catalan Dragons and the Toronto Wolfpack from Canada playing in the top tier competition.
A second Canadian team in the Ottawa Aces has been accepted for entry to the RFL League 1 division in 2021 with New York Rugby League from the United States being granted entry in 2022. Both clubs will be seeking to gain promotion to the top flight via taking the same route that recently saw Toronto promoted to Super League.
Here’s to another 25 years!