The Sports Archives – The Ashes – A Whole Lotta’ History!

Australia Kangaroos - 2008

Australia Kangaroos – 2008

Just like the cricket series of the same name The Ashes rugby league series was a best of three series of test matches played between the Great Britain and Australian rugby national league teams.

Despite its popularity, largely owing to the enormous rivalry between the two teams, The Ashes series only ran from 1908 until 2003. In this time a total of 39 contests for the title were held, with the hosting rights alternating between the two teams.

With recent talks of the series making a comeback on the international rugby league stage, many rugby fans are keen to know more about the history of one of the most important series of test matches in rugby league history.

Where it all began…

Australian Kangaroos logoAt the beginning of the 20th Century it became popular for sporting events to adopt the cricket ‘Ashes’ style of the best of three as it was felt that this was a true test of how good a team was.

The rugby league series was no exception and on the 27th September 1908 the first touring Australian rugby league side stepped on to British soil and prepared to take part in the first test match against the Great Britain team.

When the teams played a series of three matches an Australian player suggested that they call the series ‘The Ashes’ after the cricket series, and the rest as they say is history…

By the way, Great Britain won!

Changes to the British side…

Great Britain Lions logo - 2013Despite now being called Great Britain the British team haven’t always been known that way. At the time of the first Ashes series the team was known as ‘Northern Union XIII’.

Throughout the years the team have also been known as ‘England’ and ‘The Lions’, although ‘Great Britain’ was the final name of the team.

Similarly, the Australian side has also had a few name changes. Owing to the fact that the team sometimes included players from New Zealand the side was sometimes known as ‘Australasia’.

The modern ‘Ashes’…

Since 1970 the Australian side has won 13 consecutive ‘Ashes’ series and in 2003 the series was cancelled all together after the Australian players voiced safety concerns.

There have been several recent attempts to get the series started again, especially as many older rugby league fans feel that the sport has suffered because of the lack of the test match series.

The most recent attempt was made in 2009 when the British Rugby Football League (RFL) challenged the Australian Rugby League (ARL) to a one-off match with the Ashes Cup at stake.

Despite initially agreeing to the tournament the ARL later withdrew as it faced anger from former Ashes players and fans who felt a one-off game devalued the original test match series.

Discussions are constantly being held between fans, players, and the sport’s governing bodies regarding a return of the Ashes series, but there are no firm plans in place.

So, rugby league fans, watch this space!

Featured images:
  •  License: Image author owned

By Harry Price

Harry Price enjoys playing poker with his mates and following his favourite rugby and football teams

Other Images: Wikipedia

Related Blogs:
What Do You Know About Rugby?
Rugby Sevens – What’s It All About?
Britain’s Rugby Stadiums: A Brief History

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