24 matches [1982-1996; 1998]
13 wins, 10 losses, 1 draw
The Illawarra Steelers were a Wollongong based team that was admitted as part of an expanded Sydney competition, along with the Canberra Raiders, for the 1982 season.
The Steelers first ever premiership match was against the Panthers at Wollongong Showground on 28 February 1982. The Panthers led 14-0 at half time and looked head to post a comfortable victory but the newcomers to their credit fought back in the second half but the more experienced Panthers prevailed 17-7.
However, the Steelers would not need to wait long to register their first victory against the Panthers, breaking away from a 7-all half time score to post a a 17-12 at Penrith Park, and mark their first win on the road.
From 1983 to 1986, the honours were evenly shared with four wins apiece.
Penrith would win 7 of the next 9 meetings from 1987 to 1989, with the Steelers recording victories at Wollongong in 1990 and 1992. A few of these wins were by large margins, including a 36-2 victory at Penrith Park in 1988 (in which the home team blew open a tight first half contest in the second half with five tries in the last 25 minutes), which would remain their biggest ever win over Illawarra.
From 1993 to 1996, the teams would meet only once a season, with the Steelers winning three times (including a crushing 42-2 at Steelers Stadium in 1996), and the Panthers were able to hold for a 26-all draw at Penrith Stadium in 1994, in what was described an entertaining and exhilarating thriller.
The two teams played in separate competitions in 1997, with the Steelers in the ARL and the Panthers in the rebel Super League competition.
Upon reunification in 1998 with the creation of the National Rugby League (NRL), the two teams would meet once again for the solitary meeting, where the Panthers were able to use a one man advantage in the second half to pull away from a spirited Steelers outfit to win 38-14.
What was unknown at the time, however, was that it would be the last time the two clubs would meet head to head.
Citing the need for survival and retain a presence in Wollongong, it agreed to a merger with the St. George Dragons in September 1998 to form the St. George Illawarra Dragons, which played its first season in 1999 and remains as one of the 16 current NRL clubs.
The Illawarra Steelers have retained a presence in the under age and women’s competitions, whilst the current St. George Illawarra team in the second tier NSW Cup run out in the distinct Steelers uniform.