Top Level Sports
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Top Level Sports

AFL vs NRL: a comparison

The NRL and the AFL are 2 sporting leagues in Australia, but how different are they from each other? And are they actually that different at all?

Let's look into that...


The NRL has origins back in 1907 when New South Wales rugby union players decided to create their own league as they weren't getting paid to play. Popularity for the sport exploded, but it wasn't until 1998 that the NRL was officially established with 20 teams in the competition. Right now there is 16 clubs with a 17th set to be added next year.

The AFL has a longer history with the original VFA being formed in 1877. It was supposedly a rugby like game to keep cricketers fit during the winter, but turned into more than that, today COMPETING against cricket for Australia’s most popular sport. The VFL was then formed in 1877 and is still around today as a reserves competition to the AFL in Victoria. The actual AFL was founded in 1896. Now, the AFL contains 18 clubs.


A study by Roy Morgan found that 7.5 million Australians watched the AFL at least occasionally in 2020, 1.8 million more people then the NRL had at 5.7 million. For me personally, I enjoy and consume a lot more AFL then NRL, but still watch the odd game. The AFL is more popular in Victoria and South Australia as it has been there for over a century, but in NSW and Queensland, the NRL is their most popular sport.

2020 financially

We all know that 2020 was a tough year for both organisations and the amount of money coming in is still recovering, and in 2020 the AFL lost a staggering $22 million and the NRL lost almost $25 million. Not good for either.


In 2021 the AFL found that 1 in 23 Australians had an AFL membership with over 1 million memberships being sold. The NRL however had much less with over 300,000 memberships being sold.

All in all, the AFL has been around for a lot longer and has more fans then the NRL. I enjoy both sports and support teams in both leagues.

Thank you for reading! This took a long time to research and put together, but I hope you enjoyed and learnt something new!



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