The 1998 NRL season was the 91st season of professional rugby league football in Australia, and the inaugural season of the newly formed National Rugby League (NRL). After the 1997 season, in which the Australian Rugby League and Super League organisations ran separate competitions parallel to each other, they joined to create a reunited competition in the NRL. The first professional rugby league club to be based in Victoria, the Melbourne Storm was introduced into the League, and with the closure of the Hunter Mariners, Western Reds and South Queensland Crushers, twenty teams competed for the premiership, which culminated in the 1998 NRL grand final between the Brisbane Broncos and Canterbury Bulldogs.
The National Rugby League was formed after an agreement was reached between the two rivaling competitions from 1997, the Australian Rugby League and the Super League. In December 1997, the two parties formed a joint board to run the new Australian rugby league club competition. The vast majority of the 22 clubs that contested in 1997 across the split competitions also contested the first season of the National Rugby League, with the exception of the Hunter Mariners, the Western Reds and South Queensland.
The National Rugby League imposed a $3M salary cap on each of the clubs.
- I get knocked down! But I get up again; you're never gonna keep me down.
There was no visual performance of the song in the ad which returned to the standard rugby league imagery of big hits and crunching tackles to accompany the track.
The closure of the Hunter Mariners, Western Reds and South Queensland Crushers, and the introduction of the Melbourne Storm meant that a total of twenty clubs contested the 1998 Premiership. Eleven of these clubs were from Sydney, but an agreement between the Australian Rugby League and Super League meant that many of these clubs were in danger of being cut from the competition by the 2000 season when, it was decided, only 14 clubs would be invited to contest the premiership.
Rounds 5 and 7: Brisbane Broncos set a new record for their biggest win, firstly 58-4 against North Queensland Cowboys, then 60-6 against North Sydney Bears, both games being played at Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre.
Round 8: 1997 ARL premiers, the Newcastle Knights played the 1997 Super League premiers, the Brisbane Broncos and Brisbane won 26-6 in Newcastle before a crowd of 27,119, cementing their position at the top of the ladder.
Round 12: The record for the biggest comeback in premiership history was re-set by the North Queensland Cowboys who trailed 26–0 at half-time and came back to beat the Penrith Panthers 36–28.
Round 24: Ivan Cleary's tally of 284 points set a new individual record for most points scored in a season in Australian club rugby league history; it has since been beaten.
|1||Brisbane Broncos (P)||24||18||1||5||688||310||+378||37|
|5||North Sydney Bears||24||17||0||7||663||367||+296||34|
|6||Sydney City Roosters||24||16||0||8||680||383||+297||32|
|8||St. George Dragons||24||13||1||10||486||490||-4||27|
|10||Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles||24||13||0||11||503||473||+30||26|
|16||North Queensland Cowboys||24||9||0||15||361||556||-195||18|
|18||South Sydney Rabbitohs||24||5||0||19||339||560||-221||10|
|19||Gold Coast Chargers||24||4||0||20||289||654||-365||8|
|20||Western Suburbs Magpies||24||4||0||20||371||802||-431||8|
- Numbers highlighted in green indicate that the team finished the round inside the top 10.
- Numbers highlighted in blue indicates the team finished first on the ladder in that round.
- Numbers highlighted in red indicates the team finished in last place on the ladder in that round
|5||North Sydney Bears||0||2||4||4||6||8||8||10||12||12||14||14||16||18||18||20||22||22||24||26||28||30||32||34|
|6||Sydney City Roosters||2||2||2||4||6||8||10||12||14||16||16||16||18||20||20||22||24||24||26||26||26||28||30||32|
|8||St George Dragons||2||2||2||4||6||8||10||12||14||16||18||20||20||22||22||22||22||24||24||26||26||26||26||27|
|10||Manly Warringah Sea Eagles||0||2||2||2||2||4||6||6||6||6||8||8||8||8||10||12||14||14||16||18||20||22||24||26|
|16||North Queensland Cowboys||2||4||6||8||8||10||10||10||10||10||10||12||14||14||14||14||16||16||18||18||18||18||18||18|
|18||South Sydney Rabbitohs||2||2||2||2||2||4||4||4||4||4||4||4||4||4||4||6||6||6||6||8||8||10||10||10|
|19||Gold Coast Chargers||0||0||0||0||2||2||2||2||4||4||4||4||4||6||6||6||6||8||8||8||8||8||8||8|
|20||Western Suburbs Magpies||0||0||2||2||2||2||2||2||2||4||4||6||6||8||8||8||8||8||8||8||8||8||8||8|
The biggest surprise of the season was when the Melbourne Storm finished 3rd after the regular season in their first ever year, only to be knocked out by the Brisbane Broncos in the Semi Final. The Canterbury Bulldogs became the lowest placed team ever to make the Grand Final, after finishing 9th after the regular season. The Bulldogs did it tough though, coming from 16 points down twice in as many weeks. They came from 16-0 down to win 28-16 against the Newcastle Knights in the Semi Final, then 18-2 down with 11 minutes to go to make it 18-18 after regulation time, then going on to win 32-20 in extra time against the Parramatta Eels in the Preliminary Final.
- Due to an agreement held between the NRL and SFS that required a set number of finals games to be held at the SFS the Preliminary finals where both held at the SFS to meet the agreement despite neither "home" side being from Sydney.
|Brisbane Broncos||38 - 12||Canterbury Bulldogs|
Michael De Vere, Kevin Campion, Tonie Carroll, Wendell Sailor, Gorden Tallis, Phil Lee, Darren Smith
Darren Lockyer (5/7)
Tony Grimaldi, Willie Talau
Brisbane's consistent dominance over other teams at this period of time contributed to the National Rugby League's plans to cut the number of teams down to 14 in order to ensure competitiveness and the long-term financial success of the game.
Despite the inclusion of "national" in the new competition's name, both the Gold Coast and Adelaide clubs folded at the end of the 1998 season. A new Gold Coast side re-entered the competition nine years later in 2007.
1998 was the last season for the seventy-eight-year-old St. George Dragons and seventeen-year-old Illawarra Steelers clubs, which merged to form the NRL's first joint-venture team at the conclusion of the season, the St George Illawarra Dragons, for inclusion in the 1999 Premiership.
- Toby Miller; Geoffrey A. Lawrence; Jim McKay (2001). Globalization and sport: playing the world. SAGE. p. 82. ISBN 9780761959694.
- Harms, John (2005). The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story. Australia: University of Queensland Press. p. 196. ISBN 9780702235368.
- NRL 1998 - Grand Final at rugbyleagueproject.org
- Brisbane 38 v Canterbury 12 - Grand Final, 1998 Archived 2012-04-15 at the Wayback Machine at stats.rleague.com
- 1998 National Rugby League Grand Final Archived 2012-06-20 at the Wayback Machine at rleague.com
- "Broncos, Dragons: two fallen powerhouses". The Roar. 15 July 2013. Retrieved 11 May 2016.