The National Rugby Championship, known as the NRC, is Australia's national professional rugby union football competition. The NRC is administered by Rugby Australia. As of 2018[update], it is contested by eight teams from around Australia plus one from Fiji.
The NRC is Australia's highest tier of rugby competition below the transnational Super Rugby tournament, which also involves New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina and Japan. The National Rugby Championship is the most important club competition for Australian players following the Super Rugby season.
The National Rugby Championship spans eleven weeks from late August, after the completion of the premier club rugby competitions in each state, to early November. A round-robin tournament is played over nine rounds where each team plays each other once. Each team has four home matches and four away matches with one bye. This is followed by the finals rounds consisting of two semi-final matches, contested by the top four teams, and a grand final match to determine the season's champion team.
During the round-robin section of the tournament, teams can also play for the Horan-Little Shield, a challenge trophy that is played for when a challenge is accepted or offered by the holders.
Two of the NRC matches each weekend are broadcast live via Fox Sports, with the remaining matches shown on the Fox Sports streaming platform. Discussion of the NRC competition is included on Fox Sports' review show NRC Extra Time on Monday nights, and the Kick & Chase program on Tuesday evenings.
In December 2013, the ARU announced that Australia would get another tier of competition under Super Rugby in line with South Africa’s Currie Cup and New Zealand's Mitre 10 Cup (then known as ITM Cup). Eleven bids were tendered from teams wanting to participate in the tournament, with nine being accepted. Applicants that were not successful were advised that they could bid again as the competition matured, as early as 2015.
The construction company Buildcorp was the inaugural naming rights sponsor for the NRC competition, with other partners including Intercontinental Hotels, Qantas, and Allianz also signed. ASICS was the official apparel supplier for the first two seasons. Matches were played under approved law variations, intended to increase the speed of the game.
A new broadcasting deal agreed in 2015 secured the funding and future of the competition until the end of the 2020 season. The competition was reduced from nine teams to eight when the ARU did not renew the NRC licence for the Sydney Stars in 2016, citing insufficient player talent to support four competitive teams in New South Wales.
The teams competing in the NRC are the following:
|Team||Licencees and associated clubs|
|Brisbane City||QRU / Reds|
|Canberra Vikings||ACT&SNSWRU / Brumbies, University of Canberra, Tuggeranong Vikings|
|Fijian Drua||Fiji Rugby Union|
|Greater Sydney Rams||Eastwood, Parramatta, Penrith, Southern Districts, West Harbour|
|NSW Country||NSW Country Rugby Union, Sydney University,a Easts, Randwick|
|Melbourne Rising||VRU / Rebels|
|Perth Spirit||WA / Force|
|Queensland Country||QRU / Reds|
|Sydney Rays||Gordon, Manly, Norths, Warringah|
Australia's Super Rugby players participate in the NRC under a capped allocation to ensure that all NRC teams have a mix of players from local development squads and club competitions, as well as those with Super Rugby experience. Australian national team players are required for Test match rugby during the NRC season, but each player is allocated to one of the NRC teams and is able to play if released from national duty.
|Brisbane City||2 (2014, 2015)||0||0|
|Perth Spirit||1 (2016)||1 (2014)||1 (2017)|
|Queensland Country||1 (2017)||0||0|
|NSW Country||0||1 (2016)||1 (2014)|
|Canberra Vikings||0||2 (2015, 2017)||0|
|Melbourne Rising||0||0||3 (2014, 2015, 2016)|
|Fijian Drua||0||0||1 (2017)|
|Sydney Rays||0||0||1 (2016)|
|Sydney Stars||0||0||1 (2015)|
Wins by State/Territory/Nation
|New South Wales||0||1||3|
|Australian Capital Territory||0||2||0|
Champions by year
|Year||# of Teams||Final||Losing semi-finalists|
|2014||9||Brisbane City||37–26||Perth Spirit||Melbourne Rising||NSW Country|
|2015||9||Brisbane City||21–10||Canberra Vikings||Melbourne Rising||Sydney Stars|
|2016||8||Perth Spirit||20–16||NSW Country||Sydney Rays||Melbourne Rising|
|2017||9||Queensland Country||42–28||Canberra Vikings||Fijian Drua||Perth Spirit|