Rugby League is a new game to many around the world so we have put together a guide to help NFL fans find the team that is similar to their team.

NFL team : Carolina Panthers

NRL team : Penrith Panthers

Again, don’t be fooled by the common mascot. Similarities run through both franchises.

Both the Penrith Panthers and Carolina Panthers played in the Grand Final and Superbowl respectively in 2003, and both teams were the underdogs heading into their matches. Fortunately, the Aussie based Panthers won the premiership over the Sydney Roosters, but the US franchise lost to the New England Patriots.

The Penrith Panthers are known as a western “blue collar club”, and have a loyal following in the west, without the flash, cash and razzle dazzle of their beachside eastern Sydney counterparts. The team has celebrated winning seasons, but also endured many losing seasons through the years. They have recently adjusted their organisational structure with a new GM and head coach in hopes of a return to glory.

The Carolina Panthers have also won the hearts of the Carolinas and have a loyal and growing supporter base. As is the yoyo nature of the NFC south, the Panthers have had their share of up and down seasons, but have yet to taste ultimate success as World Champions. In 2018 the Carolina Panthers were bought by a new owner for a then record $2.3 billion, and they also have a new Head Coach for the 2020 season.

NFL team : Chicago Bears

NRL team : South Sydney Rabbitohs

Both teams are founding franchises of their respective leagues, and both are one of only two founding teams still playing. The Rabbitohs and the Bears also hold a common record of lopsided victories in a final/playoff match. Both sides are noted as one of the most successful teams in their leagues, and both sides have also enjoyed long periods of dominance at the top.

The Rabbitohs were formed in 1908 as one of the founding members of the New South Wales Rugby Football League. Along with the Sydney Roosters, they are one of only two foundation clubs still present in the NRL. One of the most successful leagues, the “Bunnies” have won 21 Premierships – the most by any Club – and they also hold the distinction of being the only club to win a premiership in their inaugural season.

In the 1950s South Sydney had great success, winning five Premierships from six Grand Final appearances. The 1951 Rabbitohs 42–14 victory over Manly-Warringah remains the highest score by a team in a Grand Final. During this time, the Rabbitohs had “the Little Master” in their side at Fullback, nicknamed for his brilliant attacking play. Clive Churchill is universally regarded as one of
the greatest ever Australian rugby league players.

The Chicago Bears, originally the Decatur Staleys, were founded in 1920, moving to Chicago in 1921, and adopting the Bears mascot in 1922. The Bears are one of only two remaining franchises from the NFL’s founding in 1920, along with the Arizona Cardinals.

The Bears have won nine NFL Championships, including one Super Bowl, and hold the NFL record for the most enshrinees in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as well as the most retired jersey numbers. The Bears have also recorded more victories than any other NFL franchise. Through the 1940’s the Bears acquired the nickname “Monsters of the Midway” winning four NFL Championship Games out of five appearances. In the 1940 NFL Championship Game, the Bears beat Washington Redskins 73–0; the score is still an NFL record for the most lopsided result.

NFL team : Cincinnati Bengals

NRL team : Wests Tigers

Another easy pairing with the two teams sharing a common mascot (Tigers), common colours and a common history. Both teams were dominant in the 80’s, yet both ‘choked’ at the final hurdle and have since endured a period of great struggle through the 90’s and early 2000’s.

Wests Tigers are the result of a merger between the Balmain Tigers and Western Suburbs Magpies in 2000. The Balmain Tigers were a foundation club of the NRL (then NSWRL) and experienced a Golden Era post WWII before falling (and failing) through the 60’s and 70’s. Through the 80’s the Tigers were again dominant making the finals (playoffs) six times in seven years, reaching the Grand Final (Superbowl) in both 1988 and 1989. Unfortunately, the Tigers lost both matches in controversial circumstances to the Bulldogs (1988) and Raiders (1989 – considered as one of the best Grand Finals in the history of Rugby League). Since this devastating loss, the Tigers went through a
rebuilding phase, but a series of coaching and front office dramas led to the team having to merge with a neighbouring Club for survival.

Post-Merger, the Wests Tigers displayed a resurgence and won the Premiership in 2005, before again slumping down the power rankings following the departure of several key players. The Tigers are another team that have struggled to retain players, with several stars leaving before their prime to win premierships and individual accolades at other Clubs.

The Cincinnati Bengals have a kindred history, winning the AFC Championship twice through the 80’s, but ultimately losing the Superbowl (Superbowls XVI and XXIII) both times to the San Francisco 49ers. The Bengals only Hall of Famer is OT Anthony Muñoz who played for the team throughout the 80’s. Through the 90’ and into the new millennium, the Bengals went 14 years without posting a
winning record, or qualifying to play in the NFL playoffs. The Bengals had several head coaches, and numerous top draft picks were a bust.

Like the NRL’s Wests Tigers, the Bengals showed remarkable improvement in the mid-2000’s. Since 2010, both teams have gone through mini-makeovers and a change in ownership, management and front office personnel for both teams has seen the drafting and recruiting of some quality players and a return to winning records.

NFL team : Dallas Cowboys

NRL team : Brisbane Broncos

It is probably easier to say Denver Broncos, akin to the similarity and references of the Brisbane Broncos to the London Broncos in the English Super League.

However, the Broncos – before the North Queensland Cowboys and Gold Coast Titans – were ‘Queensland’s Team’ in every way the Cowboys are ‘America’s Team’.

With a high profile, big name entrance into the League in 1988, the Broncos had the best coach in the game, and their marquee player was the best player in the game. The Broncos quickly became the team everyone wanted to beat, but behind closed doors they were the team everyone wanted to be!

With a seemingly endless stable of homegrown talent, and financial success off the field driving the football operations, the Broncos, with their crown jewel of stadiums in Australia (Suncorp Stadium), are very much akin to Jerry Jones’ Dallas Cowboys and ‘Jerry’s World’ AT&T Stadium.

NFL team : Green Bay Packers

NRL team : Cronulla Sharks

Green Bay Packers are one of the last “small town teams” of the NFL, and the Sharks have similarly become the team of ‘The Shire‘ (Sutherland Shire, Southern Sydney, New South Wales).

Both teams took a long time to reach ultimate success – Green Bay waited 46 years for its first title, while Cronulla endured 49 years before finally winning their first title in 2016.

Significantly, both teams have their history rooted deep in their home field playing surface. In the mid-60’s, Cronulla moved their base to Endeavour Field at Woolooware – now affectionately known as Shark Park – and became the only club in Sydney to own their own ground. The Packers home games have been played at Lambeau Field – named after their founder Earl “Curly” Lambeau – since 1957.

Start trading those Cheeseheads for a Shark Head Pack fans

NFL team : Las Vegas Raiders

NRL team : New Zealand Warriors

The New Zealand Warriors (previously Auckland Warriors) have struggled for survival and dominance in a Rugby-mad country, and have ‘bounced around’ a lot like the LA/Oakland/LA/LV Raiders.

The teams share the same colours – predominately Black & Silver – and both fan bases are a little crazy (see Mt Smart Joker).

Both teams have tasted success, though like the Raiders, the Warriors level of play and end of season record never can quite match the expectations (or pay checks) of their roster. The Warriors tend to spend big money on big names, but every year they don’t quite reach their potential.

NFL team : Los Angeles Chargers

NRL team : Gold Coast Titans

This is probably the second easiest comparison/union to make. From the Team Colours to the History, Coastal location and Neighbouring competition, even down to the two teams (briefly) sharing a Mascot/Name.

The Gold Coast has always been viewed as the hardest market in which to base a national sporting team. The glamour of the Gold Coast and the transient nature of the Coastal town have offered just a small loyal fan base and provides plenty of ‘distractions’ for the players and team staff. The Gold Coast has in-fact launched three different NRL teams – the Seagulls, The Chargers and now the
Titans – with each team struggling to gain a foothold. This has always been compounded by the fact the Golf Coast is just an hour drive from “Big Brother” the Brisbane Broncos and their stranglehold on the South-East Queensland market. The embattled Gold Coast franchise has always struggled to retain top-level players, coaches and staff.

This storyline echoes of the LA/San Diego/LA Chargers who have moved around the ‘Golden State’ and have always faced competition from upstate rivals the 49ers, the Raiders and now the Rams who have moved in next door and will share a Stadium with the Chargers. The glitz and glamour of Hollywood, the waves of the pacific and many other distractions have not allowed the Chargers to expand their base market as much as some of the more lucrative teams. Many players have left the Chargers to enjoy Hall of Fame careers with other teams (Drew Brees), while in perhaps the most embarrassing moment for the team was when Eli Manning told the Chargers he would sit out the entire 2004 season if the team drafted him with the first overall pick. The Chargers of course did draft Eli, but then had to immediately trade him to the NY Giants in return for Phillip Rivers. 

NFL team : Los Angeles Rams

NRL team : Canterbury Bulldogs

Both of these longstanding franchises were formed in the mid 1930’s (Bulldogs 1935 and Rams 1936) and both have had their share of ups and downs, winning seasons and losing records. But the thing these teams have most in common is name changes, with both sides changing names and geographical identities, to then come back ’full circle’ to their (almost) original name.

The now Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs were originally just Canterbury-Bankstown, without an animal mascot. The team ‘suffered’ nicknames such as “Cantabs”, “CBs”, “Country Bumpkins” and “Berries” before officially adopting “The Bulldogs” in 1978 as the other nicknames were seen to be too ‘soft’. The side was known briefly in the 1990s as the Sydney Bulldogs, before changing their name to the geographically indistinct Bulldogs in 1998. From 2010, the Bulldogs returned to the name Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs as part of the teams 75 th anniversary celebrations.

The Rams have always kept the same nickname or mascot, but have undergone a similar series of name changes. The franchise began in 1936 as the Cleveland Rams, based in Cleveland, Ohio. The team then relocated to Los Angeles in 1946 becoming the LA Rams, then left southern California and moved to St. Louis, Missouri, following the 1994 NFL season to become the St Louis Rams. In January 2016, and the Rams returned to the city – and the name LA Rams – for the 2016 NFL season, playing their first game in the Los Angeles area after a 22-year absence.

The Bulldogs and Rams also have another common thread, with both teams enjoying an era of dominance that earned each team a moniker due to their brilliance. The Bulldogs ascendency through the 80’s saw the team win four premierships, with the young, enthusiastic and free-running side dubbed “The Entertainers”. The Rams side of the late 90’s early 2000’s, led by Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and Isaac Bruce, set all kinds of records to become known as “The Greatest Show on Turf”.

One other similarity the teams share is the infamy of being involved in their respective league’s biggest scandals. In 2004, the Bulldogs were embroiled in a major scandal involving a gang rape allegation. The Rams were allegedly (one of) the unfortunate victims of the Spygate scandal, with claims the Patriots had videotaped the (then) St. Louis Rams #39; walkthrough practice prior to Super
Bowl XXXVI in February 2002. Rams safety Willie Gary later filed a $100 million lawsuit against the Patriots, their Coach and Owner seeking compensation for the Rams' Super Bowl XXXVI loss in light of the allegations.

NFL team : Miami Dolphins

NRL team : St George Illawarra Dragons

Two proud coastal clubs who have a successful and storied history but haven’t reached the heights of their respective ‘dynasties’ for some time. Both teams’ successes built a generation of fans who live off those past glories as each subsequent year offers promise, but ultimately ends in disappointment.

The Dragons are among the most successful teams in the NRL, winning 16 Premierships, including 11 in succession between 1956 and 1966. In the early 1960’s St George players were afforded movie star status in Sydney, with big names such as Immortals (NRL Hall of Fame) Reg Gasnier and Johnny
Raper. The current NRL Premiership Trophy is a three-dimensional cast of a famous photo called “The Gladiators”, which depicts a mud-soaked Norm Provan of St. George and Arthur Summons of Western Suburbs embracing after the 1963 Grand Final.

The Miami Dolphins were a dominant force in the 60’s and 70’s, winning back to back Superbowls VII and VIII in 73 and 74. With legendary Coach Don Shula, and Hall of Famers Brian Griese, Larry Csonka and Larry Little, and later Dan Marino all well and truly retired, Miami’s heyday seems like a long time ago.
Both the Dragons and Dolphins fans live in hope of soon returning to the upper echelon of their respective leagues. Before the start of the 2019 NRL season, St George were expected by many to reach the finals and continue their good form from the previous year. The Dolphins have just selected Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa with the first of their 3 first round picks in 2020, setting expectations high in the Sunshine State.

NFL team : Minnesota Vikings

NRL team : Canberra Raiders

The Viking Clap – enough said. The Minnesota Vikings Skol Chant and the Canberra Raiders Viking Clap – both originating from fans of the Iceland national team during soccer’s Euro 2016 tournament – are used to fire up the fans pre-game.

The cold and frosty climes of Australia’s capital city are what you would expect in Minnesota, with the Raiders hosting the first ever NRL match played in snow back in 2000.

The Raiders have also endured some controversy surrounding its top players (Todd Carney, Josh Dugan) much like the Boat Party scandal that rocked the Vikings in 2005 featuring their top players (Duante Culpepper, Bryant McKinnie etc.)

NFL team : New England Patriots

NRL team : Melbourne Storm

The easiest of comparisons. Both teams have experienced more than a decade of dominance at the top, with the word Dynasty used to describe both squads each side of the Pacific.

And the recipe for success is from the same blueprint – one of the greatest players of all time to lead the roster (Cameron Smith / Tom Brady), with arguably the greatest coach of all time pulling the strings (Craig Bellamy / Bill Belichick).

The enduring success of both teams has also seen them go from darling of the league to scorned by haters, a reputation both teams have earned by pushing the boundaries on league rules and regulations including Salary Caps scandals, wrestling and unsportsmanlike conduct of the Storm and the infamous “deflategate” of the Patriots.

NFL team : New York Giants

NRL team : South Sydney Rabbitohs

Two of the most glamourous and elite teams in their leagues, these two teams also have the highest profile, and highest scrutiny of any team. These teams are often the primary focus of each nation’s media outlets, with the Roosters playing from Bondi Beach in Sydney, and the Giants from the ‘Big Apple’ New York.
The Sydney Roosters are a founding team of the NRL (along with the Rabbitohs) forming in 1908.

While not a founding Club, the Giants were formed in 1925, joining the NFL just five years after its inception to be among the oldest teams in the league.

The Roosters have won 15 Premierships, tied second all-time behind the South Sydney Rabbitohs. The club holds the record for having the most wins in league history and has won more minor premierships than any other club. Since the 1970s has often been dubbed the "glamour club" of the league.

The Giants rank third among all NFL franchises with eight NFL championship titles: four in the pre–Super Bowl era and four since the advent of the Superbowl. They also have more championship appearances than any other team, with 19 overall appearances. Throughout their history, the Giants have featured 29 Hall of Fame players.

NFL team : Pittsburgh Steelers

NRL team : Newcastle Knights

Both of these teams have been born out of Steel Towns.

Newcastle, although known more for its coal, was home to Australia’s largest steel manufacturer BHP, with the steelworks the region’s largest employer.

In Pittsburgh, the merging of the Carnegie Steel Company to form US Steel dominates the history and personality of the town. The Pittsburgh Steelers are named after the distribution company The Pittsburgh Steeling Company, which was established in 1927.

NFL team : San Fransisco 49ers

NRL team : Parramatta Eels

Jarrod Hayne – an obvious link between these two Clubs, but once again the deeper we look the more the two teams have in common.

The 80’s was a kind decade to the 49ers, winning four Superbowls behind mastercoach Bill Walsh polished off by back-to-back Superbowls in 88 and 89. The team was led by Joe Montana (and later Steve Young), and Hall of Fame players like Ronnie Lott and a young unheralded wide receiver named Jerry Rice. Known as one of the more dominant attacking teams in the West, the 49ers (through Bill Walsh) developed the famous West Coast Offense.

The Eels also a golden era through the 80’s, earning five Grand Final appearances and winning four premierships. Under the influence of supercoach Jack Gibson, and with a team including names such as Ray Price, Peter Sterling, Eric Grothe, Sr., Steve Ella, Mick Cronin, and Brett Kenny the club
captured three consecutive premierships from 1981 to 1983.

Both the Eels and the 49ers have not since reached the heights of the 80’s, but both have showed a resurgence in the last few years and have bright futures ahead with a stable of up and coming players, head coaches and general manager/chairman.

NFL team : Seattle Seahawks

NRL team : Manly Sea-Eagles

The Bird of Prey mascot is not the only common thread between these two teams.

Manly Sea-Eagles are known for their extremely passionate and parochial fans. Their homeground – Brookvale Oval – is referred to as a fortress due to the daunting atmosphere for visiting teams created by the fans. The Seahawks have embraced their “12s” (previously 12th Man) and have twice set the Guinness World Record loudest crowd noise at a sporting event. The Seahawks retired the number 12 jersey on December 15, 1984, in honour of their fans.

Both teams have created a reputation of being a team that other teams (and fans) love to hate due to their brash attitude and swagger.

Fittingly, both teams are also coastal towns not far from stunning beaches.

NFL team : Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NRL team : North Queensland Cowboys

Again, the easy route here could have been Dallas Cowboys given the team mascot, but the Cowboys share a similar storyline to that of the Buccaneers.

The Cowboys are one of the more recent NRL franchises, and like the early Creamsicle days of the Bucs, they lacked initial on field success. In their inaugural season, the team won just two of their 22 games, and finished dead last in the league. The Cowboys also lacked stability over the first few seasons, with eight different captains and three different coaches in their first 3 years.

However, just like the names of Sapp, Brooks and Lynch heralding a new era in Tampa, the Cowboys showed dramatic improvement and reached their first Grand Finals with fan favourites Jonathan Thurston and Matt Bowen leading the team to success.

The Bucs in Tampa are tucked away down in Florida, famous for its hot, humid conditions and alligators. Similarly, the North Queensland Cowboys – based in Townsville – are also on the very outer edge of the league geography, and are in prime Crocodile habitat (the regions professional basketball team were called the Townsville Crocs!)