The Anzac Test is an annual rugby league football test match (known as the Bundaberg Rum Test from 2004–2008 and the VB Test in 2009 for sponsorship reasons). Inaugurated in 1997, the test is played annually between Australia and New Zealand on or around Anzac Day for the Bill Kelly Memorial Trophy.
In August 2015 the NRL made a new $925 million (Australian) TV deal. One major incentive of the deal was for player welfare and satisfaction and therefore the deal revealed that the NRL regular season would now be played over 25 rounds, not 26. The week taken off of this new deal was the representative weekend and, although the Pacific tests still remain (which have been shifted to play on a Sunday on the same day as game 2 of the State of Origin series), the Anzac test has been removed from the NRL calendar with the deal revealing that the International game will be given "a new priority" in a dedicated window after the NRL Premiership season. The Anzac test will still be played until 2018 when the new TV deal comes into play.
Australia and New Zealand had competed in Rugby League Tests since 1908. The Anzac Test, played on or around Anzac Day, was introduced by Super League (Australia) in 1997. When New Zealand was defeated 56–0 in 2000 the Australian Rugby League (ARL) was criticised for playing the match before the State of Origin series. The Test was then dropped from the annual schedule in favour of match in mid-July. In 2002 and 2003, Australia defeated Great Britain (64–10) and New Zealand (48–6) in July Test matches, so the Bundaberg Rum Test (as it became known for sponsorship reasons) was revived the following year.
The Anzac Test was controversial for its use of the term Anzac (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) and its perceived comparison of professional sportsmen with soldiers. However Super League donated a large sum of money to the RSL, and Bruce Ruxton featured in commercials for the inaugural Anzac Test, proclaiming
"Mark my words, Australia is still in grave danger from one of our so-called neighbours. The Kiwis were once our allies and now they’re on the other side – at least for 80 minutes".
The word Anzac is protected in Australia by The Protection of Word "ANZAC" Regulations (under the War Precautions Act Repeal Act 1920) and requires permission of the Minister for Veterans' Affairs for use in commercial events. This permission was given for the event from 1997–1999.
From 2004 until 2008 the match was officially called the Bundaberg Rum League Test, after the principal sponsor, Bundaberg Rum. For the 2009 fixture, the principal sponsor was Victoria Bitter and, as such, the match was officially called the VB Test. Despite the official name change, it is still common for the match to be called the Anzac Test.
Two different trophies have been awarded for the winner of this Test. For the 1997–1999 Anzac Tests, the winner was awarded the Anzac Trophy, which depicted an Australian slouch hat and New Zealand lemon squeezer hat.
Since 2004, the winner of the Bundaberg Rum League Test has been awarded the Bill Kelly Memorial Trophy. This trophy was donated in 1996 by Gerald Ryan ONZM, a past president of the New Zealand Rugby League. It is named after Bill Kelly, a New Zealand rugby league player in the early 20th century.
The Bill Kelly Memorial Trophy was briefly stolen by three 25-year-old New Zealand men after Australia's victory in the 2006 Test. It was found several hours later on the awning of a nearby building. The trophy currently resides at the Australian Rugby League headquarters in Sydney.
In 2011, the Bill Kelly Memorial Trophy was not played for in the Anzac Test, but instead in a one-off post-season test match.
In 2007, the New Zealand Rugby League announced that the Anzac Test would not be contested after 2008, citing difficulties with selecting their best possible team for a match held at that time of year. According to the NZRL Director of Football, Graham Lowe, "We have an obligation to play Australia in Sydney on 9 May next year, because it is their centenary test, and we will fulfil it, but that will be the last one." Although the NZRL did not think that the Anzac Tests were still a viable option, they were "optimistic an international calendar will be adopted.".
After New Zealand's win in the 2008 Rugby League World Cup, the release of new RLIF world rankings, and the introduction of a new international schedule, the annual mid-season test between Australia and New Zealand was revived. The 2009 fixture was played on 8 May at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium.
The 2010 Anzac Test, played on 7 May, was the first game of football at Melbourne's newly constructed AAMI Park.
The 2011 Anzac Test was scheduled to be held at AMI Stadium in Christchurch on 6 May. However, the match had to be rescheduled at Skilled Park on Australia's Gold Coast due to the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.
The 2012 Anzac Test was held at Eden Park, Auckland, on 20 April and was adjudicated by English Referee, Richard Silverwood. This was the first Anzac Test to be played in New Zealand since 1998.
The 2013 Test was held at the Canberra Stadium on 19 April. This marked the first time that the Australian team had played a test in Australia's capital city. The game was played in Canberra to celebrate the centenary of that city.
The 2014 Anzac Test played at the Sydney Football Stadium on 2 May, saw test football return to Sydney for the first time since the 2010 Four Nations.
The 2015 Anzac Test, played at Suncorp Stadium, was originally scheduled to take place on 1 May but bad weather caused the game to be postponed to 3 May. This marked the first time a rugby league Test in Australia was ever done so.
The 2016 Anzac Test was played at Hunter Stadium on 6 May, the first time the match was played in Newcastle since 2004. The Kangaroos won the match 16-0.
Australia have won all but two Anzac Tests.
- Includes the Australia (Super League) victory in 1997.