The biggest membership race in Rugby League history has finished in a thrilling dead-heat with South Sydney and St George-Illawarra both crashing through the barrier of 10,000 ticketed members in the same week.

The NRL chose the annual Charity Shield match at ANZ Stadium to announce the Rabbitohs and Dragons will share the ‘Race to 10,000’ title.

In recognition of the achievement by members from both clubs, the NRL and its media partners have increased the original prize pool from $50,000 to $100,000 which includes advertising and marketing support and $10,000 cash each.

It will be the first time two Sydney Clubs have entered the season with 10,000 ticketed members each … and with Canterbury and Parramatta still in striking distance of the 10,000 target the number of clubs could well rise in the weeks and months ahead.

The race to 10,000, involving the eight NSW clubs and Canberra, followed a record game-wide growth in ticketed membership in 2009 and a season that produced some of the fastest and most skillful Rugby League ever seen.

For the first time, Sydney clubs are looking to rival membership front runners the Brisbane Broncos who boast 12,000 ticketed members.

“It’s been a great way to kick off the season,” NRL Chief Executive, Mr David Gallop, said today.

“And while it’s not often that you have more than one winner in sport there is no doubt that this has been a win-win for the Rabbitohs, the Dragons and indeed all the clubs.

“Fans from every club have celebrated their connection with the game by signing up as members.

“It’s still too early to confirm who will emerge as the biggest improvers when the competition ends in Round 5 but this has been about much more than claiming a prize.

“Membership is an increasingly important part of the game’s future and a real way for fans to share their passion and their pride in their team.

“Already we are seeing incredible interest in people wanting to make sure they have seats at the big matches in the opening rounds and membership is the best way of guaranteeing that you are there to see the action, enjoy the fun and build new friendships.

“While the clubs take the prizes, the ones who deserve congratulations are the Members who have shown their loyalty and who are encouraging others to be a part of their club community.”

Media partners who have supported the innovative race to 10,000 include the Nine Network, Fox Sports, 2GB, Bigpond.com and the Daily Telegraph.

Find out more about becoming a member