Ranking every professional rugby league team in the British game by their wait for a major honour

Ben Olawumi
Wigan Warriors, Warrington Wolves, Castleford Tigers

From left to right: Wigan Warriors (2024, World Club Challenge), Warrington Wolves (2019, Challenge Cup) & Castleford Tigers (2017, League Leaders' Shield) all celebrate winning major honours

Ultimately, the premise of any sport is to win something. Rugby league is no different, with four ‘major’ honours on offer every year. Wigan Warriors & Warrington Wolves will do battle under the Wembley arch for one of them, the Challenge Cup, this weekend.

The League Leaders’ Shield and Super League title – earned via victory in the Grand Final – are the other two major domestic honours.

Meanwhile, the previous season’s Super League winners get to go up against the NRL champions in the World Club Challenge at the start of the following campaign for the honour of being world champions.

There have been variations in the way major honours are earned in our sport over the years, as we’ll get onto, but this weekend’s Challenge Cup final peaked our interest to find out when clubs last won a major honour.

There are 35 clubs in total across the top three tiers – Super League, the Championship & League 1 – and below, we rank them by the time they’ve waited to have a major honour against their name, from shortest to longest…

Note 1: On our headline, we know clubs in the Championship & League 1 aren’t ‘professional’, but they officially do compete in ‘professional’ leagues.

If we went into community clubs’ wait for a major honour, we’d be here all day, so forgive us as we had to cut it off somewhere!

Note 2: Where possible, we’ve noted down the exact date a trophy was won. For League Leaders’ Shields, again where possible we’ve noted down the date of the club’s last league game that season.

For those we were unable to find, we’ve at the very least noted down the year in which the major honour was won to come up with this ranking list.

35. Wigan Warriors – February 24, 2024

Wigan Warriors lift the World Club title
Wigan Warriors lift the 2024 World Club title after victory over Penrith Panthers

Matt Peet’s Warriors completed the sweep within just under two years as they won the World Club Challenge on home soil in February, meaning they’d won everything there is to win under his tutelage.

Kruise Leeming, Abbas Miski & Jake Wardle all scored tries in a 16-12 victory against Penrith Panthers, with Wigan crowned world champions for a record-equalling fifth time, moving level with Sydney Roosters.

34. Leigh Leopards – August 12, 2023

Given that Wigan swept up last year, barring the Challenge Cup, whoever won that were always going to be second on this list (or 34th, as we’ve put it). As it happens, that was nearby neighbours Leigh, who were Wembley winners in August 2023, beating Hull KR 17-16 in the competition’s final.

Lachlan Lam scored the winning one-pointer, on target with a drop goal in golden point extra time under the arch. That was the club’s first major honour since 1982, when they won the First Division Championship as it was then known, pipping Hull FC to the title.

33. St Helens – February 18, 2023

A few months prior, Saints had been crowned world champions with a history-making victory in the World Club Challenge against Penrith, becoming the first British side to win it Down Under in the Super League era.

Paul Wellens’ side beat the Panthers 13-12 in their own backyard courtesy of Lewis Dodd’s drop goal in golden point extra time.

32. Catalans Dragons – September 17, 2021

And given Saints’ dominance of the domestic game for the few years before that, the next club down the list in terms of major honours is Catalans, who won the League Leaders’ Shield in 2021.

Steve McNamara’s Dragons finished top on points percentage ahead of Saints, who then beat them in the Grand Final.

31. Leeds Rhinos – October 17, 2020

Richard Agar, Luke Gale, Richie Myler
Then-Leeds Rhinos head coach Richard Agar (left) & Luke Gale (right) lift the Challenge Cup trophy aloft at an empty Wembley in 2020 after their victory in the final against Salford Red Devils while man of the match Richie Myler (right) holds aloft the Lance Todd Trophy

Leeds have over 30 major honours to their name, but haven’t won one since their Challenge Cup triumph which came behind closed doors at Wembley during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Then headed up by Richard Agar, the Rhinos beat Salford 17-16 under the arch thanks to Luke Gale’s late drop goal. Given that they lost the 2022 Grand Final to Saints, Leeds’ last major honour won in front of their supporters was their 2017 Grand Final triumph against Castleford.

30. Warrington Wolves – August 24, 2019

Warrington will bid to win a major honour for the first time in almost five years this weekend, attempting to lift the same trophy as they did in August 2019.

That day, a man of the match performance from Daryl Clark helped the Wolves to an 18-4 win against Saints at Wembley, with Joe Philbin & Ben Murdoch-Masila crossing for tries as well as the hooker.

29. Castleford Tigers – September 22, 2017

They’re not as valued because of the pulling power a win in a Grand Final has, but League Leaders’ Shield triumphs come as a result of consistent performances over the course of a full season. Under the stewardship of Daryl Powell, Castleford finished top in 2017 and lifted the ‘league title’ before being beaten at Old Trafford by Leeds.

Since then, the Tigers have finished in the play-offs, but are yet to reach another Grand Final. They were also beaten by Saints in the 2021 Challenge Cup final at Wembley.

28. Hull FC – August 26, 2017

Hull’s last major honour came in the form of the Challenge Cup, securing back-to-back wins at Wembley in 2016 & 2017 under Lee Radford.

Their 2017 triumph in the capital came against Wigan, when Mahe Fonua grabbed a brace of tries in an 18-14 victory. The Black & Whites haven’t been past the semi-final – in either the Super League play-offs or Challenge Cup – since then.

27. Huddersfield Giants – September 7, 2013

Huddersfield lifting the 2013 Super League Leaders' Shield
Huddersfield Giants lifting the 2013 Super League Leaders’ Shield

We’ve had to skip a few years back, which is going to be a similar trend from here on in, but Huddersfield are next up in terms of most recent major honours. The Giants, in Paul Anderson’s first season at the helm, finished top of Super League in 2013 and lifted the League Leaders’ Shield.

Pipping Warrington to the post, Anderson’s side would go on to be beaten in the play-off semi-final by the Wolves a few weeks after lifting the shield. Since this success, the closest Huddersfield came to a major honour was their narrow defeat to Wigan in the 2022 Challenge Cup final.

26. Bradford Bulls – February 3, 2006

Having won the Grand Final in 2005, Bradford went on to beat NRL champions Wests Tigers 30-10 in the 2006 World Club Challenge, which was played out in Huddersfield. Marcus Bai & Stuart Fielden both scored braces on the night for the Bulls, with Stanley Gene also on the scoresheet.

The Odsal outfit have not been able to add to a large collection of major honours after that victory, though do have more recent silverware in their trophy cabinet in the shape of both the 2016 Championship Shield.

25. Sheffield Eagles – May 2, 1998

The Eagles’ only major honour, at least to date, came as a result of one of the greatest shocks in the history of rugby league – beating Wigan 17-8 in the 1998 Challenge Cup final. Nick Pinkney, Matt Crowther & Darren Turner were Sheffield’s try-scorers at Wembley. Mark Aston was also on target with a drop goal.

26 years on, Aston will lead the Eagles out at Wembley as their head coach this weekend in the 1895 Cup final. They were the first-ever winners of that competition back in 2019.

24. Widnes Vikings – May 13, 1990

Before they adopted the ‘Vikings’ tagline, Widnes were quite a successful side. Having also won the World Club Challenge in 1989, the Chemics went on to be crowned the winners of the league that same year – First Division Championship champions.

Their most recent major honour though came in 1990 when they won the Premiership, beating Bradford 28-6 in the final of the knockout tournament. Widnes also won the Regal Trophy (League Cup) two years later, but we didn’t think it fair to put that down as a major honour. More recently, the Vikings reached the Challenge Cup semi-finals in 2014.

23. Halifax Panthers – May 2, 1987

Again prior to the ‘Panthers’ tagline and even before the ‘Blue Sox’ guise, Fax enjoyed a fair bit of success, with nine major honours against their name in total. The most recent of those was the Challenge Cup, which they won for the fifth time in 1987.

Wilf George, Seamus McCallion & Graham Eadie all crossed for tries against Saints that day, with John Pendlebury kicking the winning drop goal in a 19-18 triumph. Amidst other pieces of silverware put in the club’s trophy cabinet since then, the Panthers last year won the 1895 Cup.

22. Hull KR – April 23, 1985

KR won the First Division Championship in 1985, essentially crowned champions of the league, before losing the Premiership final to Saints – who they had pipped to the title – a few weeks later.

The Robins were beaten in the Challenge Cup final the following year, and haven’t been able to add a major honour to their trophy cabinet since. Under Willie Peters, they of course came close again last year when they were beaten in the Challenge Cup final by Leigh.

21. Featherstone Rovers – May 7, 1983

Fev pulled off an upset of their own in the 1983 Challenge Cup final, beating Hull FC 14-12 with David Hobbs their two-try hero on the day, and Steve Quinn slotting over four goals to make the difference.

Rovers have not won another major honour since, though have in recent years picked up a whole host of second-grade silverware as one of the regular frontrunners in the Championship. Lifting the 1895 Cup in 2021, the Flatcappers last year lifted the second tier’s League Leaders’ Shield before failing to gain promotion as they were beaten in the play-offs.

20. Salford Red Devils – April 1976

Salford have seven major honours against their name, though the most recent came in 1976 when they won the Championship, finishing a point ahead of Featherstone to pip them to the crown. The Greater Manchester outfit would go on to be beaten 15-2 in the Premiership final by Saints, who had finished fourth, a few weeks later.

The Red Devils have more recently been beaten in the Grand Final, again by Saints in 2019, and the Challenge Cup final, beaten by Leeds in 2020.

19. Dewsbury Rams – May 19, 1973

Of Dewsbury’s three major honours, the 1973 Championship Final triumph is the most recent. The West Yorkshire outfit had finished 8th in the regular season, beating Oldham, Featherstone & Warrington to set up a final against Leeds, which they won 22-13.

Hooker Mike Stephenson grabbed a brace of tries in the final, with Allan Agar & Nigel Stephenson – who kicked five goals – also crossing. This would be the last season in which the British Championship was decided by a play-off system until Super League re-introduced it in 1998.

18. Wakefield Trinity – May 4, 1968

Five years prior, Wakefield had been pipped to the post in the regular league season by Leeds, who had also beaten them in that year’s Challenge Cup final.

Trinity though had the last laugh, winning the Championship Final against Hull KR courtesy of a 17-10 triumph. Super League play-off semi-finalists in 2004, and Challenge Cup semi-finalists in 2008, Wakefield return to Wembley this weekend in the final of the 1895 Cup.

17. Swinton Lions – 1964

Swinton won four more league games than Wigan in the 1963/64 season and earned their sixth First Division Championship title as a result, finishing six points ahead of their nearest competitors.

The three-time Challenge Cup winners have not picked up a major honour since, with their most notable silverware of late the League 1 title in 2011. Promotion up from the third tier in 2022 came via the play-offs.

16. Oldham – 1957

Oldham are also three-time Challenge Cup winners, though their last major honour was a league title, topping the table and then beating Hull FC 15-14 in the First Division Championship Final – having seen off Leeds in the semi-final – to seal a fourth Championship.

The Roughyeds also won the Lancashire League & Lancashire County Cup that same season. Bidding for promotion back up to the Championship this term, they have thrice been crowned champions of the Second Division.

15. Barrow Raiders – April 30, 1955

Barrow’s only major honour, at least to date, is their 1955 Challenge Cup triumph which came having beaten fellow Cumbrian outfit Workington Town 21-12 in the final of the competition. Vince McKeating, Dennis Goodwin & Frank Castle were Barrow’s try-scorers at Wembley, while Willie Horne won the Lance Todd Trophy.

The Raiders are now in the Championship, the division they topped in 2009 during licensing, unable to be promoted to Super League despite their on-field success.

14. Workington Town – April 19, 1952

Workington are able to go one better with two major honours to their name, coming in back-to-back years. Having won the Premiership in 1951, they lifted the Challenge Cup in ’52, beating Featherstone 18-10 in the final at Wembley.

Town full-back and captain-coach Gus Risman became the oldest player to appear in a cup final at the age of 41, with Johnny Lawrenson responsible for two of their four tries on the day. The Cumbrian side lost the Championship Final 20-3 to Hull in 1958, and that’s the closest they’ve come to a major honour since this cup triumph.

13. Hunslet – 1938

Yes, we’re including the ‘original’ Hunslet club. The Parksiders have four major honours against their name, and the last of those was the 1937/38 Championship.

Having finished the season a point ahead of 2nd-placed Leeds, Hunslet beat Barrow in the Championship semi-final and then saw off Leeds oncemore in the final, 8-2 the result. The club officially re-formed in 1973, and are yet to taste the top flight since.

12. Batley Bulldogs – 1924

Three-time Challenge Cup winners Batley have one another major honour to their name, and that was actually their most recent, winning the Championship Final against Wigan with a 13-7 scoreline in their favour that year. The West Yorkshire outfit – who beat Oldham in the semi-finals – had finished 2nd, some distance behind Wigan, in the regular season.

Batley had won the Yorkshire League that season, too, and snuck in to earn their only-ever Championship title. The Bulldogs’ bid for silverware last year fell at the final hurdle, beaten at Wembley in the 1895 Cup showpiece by Halifax. The year prior, Leigh had  got the better of them in the Championship play-off final for a spot in Super League.

11. Rochdale Hornets – April 29, 1922

Spoiler alert: Rochdale are the last club in our ranking who have actually won a major honour in history, with the most recent of the two they have to boast about being the 1922 Challenge Cup, won 10-9 against Hull FC at Headingley before finals of the competition were moved to Wembley.

The Hornets’ other major honour was the Lancashire League title they won three years prior, in 1919. The Championship wasn’t played following a break for the Great War hence the Lancashire League temporarily becoming a major honour. Rochdale also won the Lancashire Cup that year. The Greater Manchester outfit haven’t come close to a major honour in recent times.

10. Cornwall – Never

We’ll address the 10 clubs without a major honour alphabetically, starting with Cornwall, who were only formed in 2021. Their two-and-a-bit seasons so far have been spent as a League 1 club, finishing 10th & 9th in 2021 & 2022 respectively.

Cornwall are yet to make it past the Third Round of the Challenge Cup, knocked out at that stage by community outfit York Acorn earlier this year.

= Doncaster – Never

Doncaster’s history is a much-longer one, founded back in 1951. Consistently among the bottom end of the table during the days of the First Division Championship, the Dons have never really come close to reaching Super League since the dawn of the summer era.

They won silverware last autumn in the shape of the League 1 play-off winners’ trophy, but in terms of major honours, are sat on zero.

= Keighley Cougars – Never

Keighly outdate the formation of the Northern Rugby Football Union (now RFL) in 1895 having been founded themselves in 1876, with their first notable fixture coming the year after.

Nonetheless, the Cougars are yet to pick up a major honour. They are one of only three sides that have featured in just one Challenge Cup final and lost it, never returning to the competition’s showpiece event.

= London Broncos – Never

Steele Retchless, Robbie Beazley, Matt Salter
From left to right: London Broncos forwards Steele Retchless, Robbie Beazley & Matt Salter pose for a picture ahead of the 1999 Challenge Cup final against Leeds Rhinos

The only current Super League club without a major honour against their name are new boys London, promoted via the Championship play-offs last year, who are another of the three sides at 0-1 in Challenge Cup finals after their record 52-16 defeat to Leeds at Wembley in 1999.

Formed in 1980, then known as ‘Fulham RLFC’, the Broncos finished seven points behind champions Bradford in the 1997 Super League season. In the Premiership knockout tournament which followed, the club from the capital were then thumped 58-16 at home by Sheffield in a ‘qualifying final’, falling by the wayside two games from glory.

= Midlands Hurricanes – Never

Similar to Cornwall in the sense that they haven’t been going all that long, Midlands were formed in 1998 as ‘Coventry Bears’ and then re-formed again in 2021 under the ‘Hurricanes’ tagline.

They haven’t come close to a major honour under any guise, yet to make it out of the third tier and yet to go further than Round 4 in the Challenge Cup.

= Newcastle Thunder – Never

North East outfit Thunder were initially formed in 1999 as ‘Gateshead Thunder’ following the merger between the original club and Hull Sharks (now FC). They won the League 1 title in 2008 and went on to reach the Challenge Cup quarter-finals the following year, beaten 66-6 by St Helens, which remains the closest they’ve come to a major honour.

Having spent some time in the Championship since they took on the ‘Newcastle’ name in 2015, they’re now back in the third tier and recovering from financial issues, losing every game on the field so far this season.

= North Wales Crusaders – Never

Given that we allowed the ‘re-formed’ Hunslet’s major honours to stand, every club has had the same treatment. But regardless, Crusaders – officially founded with the ‘North Wales’ tagline in 2011 – have never won a major honour under any guise.

The Welsh outfit won the third tier in 2013, and lifted the Northern Rail Bowl that same year with victory against London Skolars in that single-league competition’s final. They’re the only two trophies in the cabinet in North Wales, though supporters will hold hope that could change given their recent takeover by a Dubai-based cryptocurrency business!

= Toulouse Olympique – Never

Sylvain Houles
Long-serving Toulouse Olympique head coach Sylvain Houles, who has been in charge of the French side since 2012

By definition, Toulouse have never won a major honour in the British game having joined it back in 2016. We must however note and highlight they enjoyed great success in French rugby league prior, and won the French Elite Championship in the 2014/15 season, that a sixth domestic crown.

Olympique gained promotion from both RFL League 1 & the Championship to spend 2022 in Super League, but were relegated at the first attempt. Additionally, they haven’t featured in the Challenge Cup since 2017.

= Whitehaven – Never

Haven won the Championship title in 2005, but were well beaten in the play-off final which followed by Castleford and missed out on a spot in Super League for 2006 as a result. The Cumbrian outfit have not been able to reach the top flight since then, spending a fair bit of time in League 1 as well as the second tier, where they are now.

Added to that, they have only ever got as far as the semi-finals in the Challenge Cup, conceding late on against Leeds in 1957 to miss out on a spot in the final, which would have been against fellow Cumbrian outfit Barrow. The Marras, founded in 1948, are yet to pick up a major honour.

= York – Never

Rounding things off are York, who didn’t win a major honour as York Wasps, York or Ryedale-York, and haven’t won one – at least not yet – as York Knights, the ‘new’ club formed in 2002. The ‘old’ club were champions of the second tier in 1981, but the ‘new’ club have never tasted even that level of success.

The Knights have thrice won promotion up from the third tier, though that’s as good as it gets having been beaten in both the League 1 Cup final – in 2016 by Keighley – and the 1895 Cup final – by Featherstone at Wembley in 2021.