History of Masters RL

Masters Rugby League was developed and founded in Auckland, New Zealand in 1992. A group of Auckland Rugby League Clubs, led by Phil Campbell, met with the goal to encourage former players to come back into clubs. The group realised that “players like to play” and with more former player than current player in the game it was decided to develop a form of Rugby League with modifications to the Laws of Rugby League in order to accommodate players with “older bones”. Masters of League NZ was born.

Masters grew with a group of clubs in Christchurch on New Zealand’s south island joining in. Festivals were held and they became an important income stream for the Rugby League clubs.

In 2004, Masters of League NZ had discussions with contacts in Australia which led to Masters of League being formed by Malcolm Duncan in Sydney. The same modifications to the \laws were adopted as were in use in New Zealand. 

International Festivals started and were a great success with dozens of teams from New Zealand, Australia and the Cook Islands took part.

In 2008, the RFL introduced Masters Rugby League to England and a festival was held at Saddleworth, Lancashire where teams representing Students, Scotland, Cumbria, North East, Yorkshire and Lancashire played Masters for the first time.

In July 2008, the first Australian Masters touring party arrived and played 6 games including, in early August 2008, the very first Masters International game between Great Britain and Australia. From this date Masters Rugby League started to grow in England. 

Since then, the Great Britain Masters team has toured Australia on 4 occasions (2009, 2015 2017 and 2019) with the 2017 tour also taking in New Zealand for the first time. Australia Masters tourists have been back to England on another 5 visits. 

Since those early days, Masters Rugby League has grown steadily and in 2019 there were 49 registered Masters teams across the country with almost 2000 registered players and 190 opportunities to play from Southampton to Newcastle, from West Cumbria to Medway, from Hull to Blackpool. In 2019, Masters launched Womens Masters with the first game played on 9th March between York Lokos and West Yorkshire. There are now 4 Womens Masters teams.

Masters organised tours to France in 2017 2018 and 2019. Clubs have also begun to organise tours with Leeds Masters visiting Dublin and Hindpool leading the way to visit Belfast. In 2019 Hull Warriors were the first club side to play Masters in France.