• CELEBRATING 20 YEARS OF NRL GRAND FINALS

24 Sep 2018

 Nathan Davis

THE 2018 NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final between Sydney Roosters and Melbourne Storm will be the 20th Grand Final played at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium (Stadium Australia).

Every NRL Grand Final is a special event and there have been some unforgettable contests over the past two decades.

The first Grand Final ever played at Stadium Australia was the historic 1999 decider that featured what is considered to be the biggest refereeing call in the history of the game.

A penalty try to the Storm in the 77th minute of the decider – awarded by leading referee Bill Harrigan with the support of video referee Chris Ward – helped the Melbourne club win their first premiership in only their second season in the NRL in front of a massive crowd of 107,999.

There have been classic Grand Finals and a host of memorable Grand Final moments since.

Who will ever forget Benji Marshall’s flick pass to Pat Richards that helped a young Wests Tigers team complete their fairytale and win the 2005 premiership?

Or Johnathan Thurston’s field goal in extra time that got the Cowboys home in 2015 – their first ever title?

Or Sam Burgess’s bravery to play on with a fractured cheekbone against the Bulldogs in 2014 – lifting the South Sydney Rabbitohs to their first premiership since 1971 and winning the Clive Churchill medal in the process?

Or the endless renditions of Up Up Cronulla after the Cronulla Sharks turned the porch light off in 2016 after 50 years of waiting for a premiership?

Here’s 20 great memories from 20 NRL Grand Finals at ANZ Stadium:

1999: THE BIGGEST GRAND FINAL CALL

It is the 77th minute and the Storm are behind 18-14 in their first Grand Final appearance. Halfback Brett Kimmorley bombs to Craig Smith's wing, and Dragons centre Jamie Ainscough catches Smith in a head-high tackle over the tryline, resulting in Smith being knocked unconscious and knocking the ball on. Referee Bill Harrigan rules a penalty try to the Storm. Matt Geyer is successful with the conversion and the Storm, for the first time in the match, pull ahead of the Dragons and win their maiden premiership.

 Storm 20 Dragons 18. Clive Churchill Medallist: Brett Kimmorley.

2000: BRONCOS WALK THE OLYMPIC TRACK

With the Sydney 2000 Olympics fast approaching, the 2000 NRL Grand Final is brought forward to Sunday 27 August. The Broncos celebrate their fifth title in 13 years, and Wayne Bennett walks the team around ANZ Stadium’s Olympic athletics track in a timeless celebration.

Broncos 14 Roosters 6. Clive Churchill Medallist: Darren Lockyer.

2001: THE MAGIC OF JOEY JOHNS

Parramatta Eels are odds-on premiership favourites and poised to break their 15-year title drought after claiming the Minor Premiership and setting a new NRL season record for most points scored (943). But the Knights, with future Immortal Andrew Johns leading the way, stun the Eels by running in 24 unanswered points by halftime. The Eels fight back in the second half but it is too late to deny Newcastle the Provan-Summons Trophy.

Knights 30 Eels 24. Clive Churchill Medallist: Andrew Johns.

2002: FREDDY’S GAMECHANGER

Coach Ricky Stuart and captain Brad Fittler combine to give the Sydney Roosters their first premiership since 1975. Down 8-6 after halftime, the Roosters need to lift and Brad Fittler steps up and slots a momentum shifting 40/20. The Roosters then run away with four unanswered tries.

Roosters 30 Warriors 8. Clive Churchill Medallist: Craig Fitzgibbon.

2003: SATTLER’S TRYSAVER

At the 53-minute mark of a titanic battle, Roosters winger Todd Byrne breaks in to the clear and looks certain to take the Roosters to a 10-6 lead. But Panthers lock Scott Sattler bravely runs down the speedster and drags him into touch. The Panthers score through Luke Priddis and Luke Rooney, and go on to celebrate their second premiership title.

Panthers 18 Roosters 6. Clive Churchill Medallist: Luke Priddis.

Image: Roosters flyer Todd Byrne is dragged into touch by Panthers' Scott Sattler. Picture: FOX Sports.

 2004: JT’S NOBLE GESTURE

Bulldogs captain Steve Price is ruled out of the Grand Final with a knee injury as the club chases its 8th premiership victory. In his place, 19-year-old Johnathan Thurston is called onto the bench wearing No.18. Thurston selflessly hands his Grand Final ring over to his captain in his last game for the Bulldogs.

Bulldogs 16 Roosters 13. Clive Churchill Medallist: Willie Mason.

2005: BENJI’S BRILLIANCE

A young Benji Marshall makes the eternal rugby league highlights reel in the 2005 Grand Final with a magical flick pass to send Pat Richards on his way to a try. Wests Tigers were the NRL’s Cinderella story, going on an unexpected fairytale run to win their first premiership as a joint-venture club. Wests Tigers 30 Cowboys 16. Clive Churchill Medallist: Scott Prince.

2006: LOCKY’S BRONCOS TOO GOOD

The Broncos turn on the razzle-dazzle in the first premiership decider to not include a NSW club. Up by two points in the 60th minute, Brisbane spreads across field with eight passes, including two offloads, a no-look over-the-head throw from Casey Maguire and two separate runs from Darren Lockyer to send Brent Tate across the line. Melbourne struggles to stay in the game and Lockyer slots a perfect 35m field goal to guarantee the win.

Broncos 15 Storm 8. Clive Churchill Medallist: Shaun Berrigan. 

2007: THE RISE OF GI

An amazing two-try performance from Storm five-eighth Greg Inglis ensures he becomes the second youngest Clive Churchill Medallist. The 20-year-old scored early in the game, but it is his dazzling 60m dash along the sideline that proves he is a future superstar.

Storm 34 Manly 8. Clive Churchill Medallist: Greg Inglis.

2008: BEAVER’S SWANSONG

Manly’s 40-0 destruction of the Melbourne Storm is a legendary tale in itself. Six Sea Eagles cross the line to notch the largest Grand Final score in history, but it is Steve Menzie’s try we all remember. Playing in his 349th game (his last in Australia), local junior and one-club-man Menzies twists and slams it down in the 73rd minute to ensure this is a famous farewell.

Manly 40 Storm 0. Clive Churchill Medallist: Brent Kite.

Image: Local hero Beaver Menzies celebrates his final NRL try during the 2008 Grand Final. Picture: Sydney Morning Herald.

 2009: HIGH-FLYING EELS GROUNDED

With the Hayne Plane in full flight, the Parramatta Eels soar into the Grand Final from 8th spot on the ladder. The Storm start well in the decider but momentum swings and the Eels are able to bring the game back to a converted try. It takes a cool Greg Inglis field goal in the 77th minute to end the Eels’ remarkable run.

Storm 23 Eels 16. Clive Churchill Medallist: Billy Slater.

2010: FAMOUS RED V END 31-YEAR DROUGHT

Immortal Reg Gasnier became a household name during the Dragons’ never-before, never-again run of 11 premierships. In 2010 his nephew Mark returns to the historic club and marches them into the Grand Final. He then becomes the first try scorer in the Dragons’ first premiership win in 31 years.

Dragons 32 Roosters 8. Clive Churchill Medallist: Darius Boyd.

2011: STEWARTS SHINE

For the first time since 1929, two brothers score in a premiership decider. Brett Stewart becomes the first try-scorer, while his older brother Glenn claims the Clive Churchill Medal after bagging a try of his own, and setting up another with a remarkable cross-field grubber on his own 30m line.

Manly 24 Warriors 10. Clive Churchill Medallist: Glenn Stewart.

2012: STORM WEATHER BRAVE BULLDOGS

Despite winning their first Minor Premiership in 18 years and notching a 12-game consecutive win streak earlier in the season, the Bulldogs are unable to stop the Melbourne Storm. After a grinding first half of rugby league the Storm and Bulldogs are evenly poised at 4-all. A sublime no-look pass from Cooper Cronk to Billy Slater and the stern Bulldogs’ defence is finally split, leading the way to another Melbourne Grand Final success.

Storm 14 Bulldogs 4. Clive Churchill Medallist: Cooper Cronk.

2013: A GAME OF CENTIMETRES

The entire Stadium believes James Maloney has kicked the ball dead, but they forget to tell Michael Jennings. The young centre sails past two Manly defenders in-goal and grounds the Steeden within inches of the dead-ball line. Jennings becomes the tied top try-scorer for the season with 20 next to his name and the Roosters claim their 13th premiership.

Roosters 26 Manly 18. Clive Churchill Medallist: Daly Cherry Evans.

2014 SAM’S GRAND FINAL HEROICS

The Rabbitohs’ premiership hopes take an early hit with champion Sam Burgess fracturing his eye socket and cheekbone in the opening tackle. Displaying grit and incredible resilience, Burgess not only finishes the match, he plays the full 80 minutes and is named Clive Churchill Medallist as the Pride Of The League win their 21st premiership, breaking a 43-year drought in the process.

Rabbitohs 30 Bulldogs 6. Clive Churchill Medallist: Sam Burgess.

Image: Sam Burgess fighting through the pain of a fractured cheek and eye socket to celebrate the Rabbitohs' first premiership since 1971. Picture: The Daily Telegraph.

2015: JT’S GOLDEN BOOT

Two Queensland teams in the NRL decider for the first time, each team led by an indigenous captain. At 16-16 in Golden Point, Johnathan Thurston’s magic boot ices the game with a field goal, securing the Cowboys’ first Premiership. JT is named Churchill Medallist and the Cowboys bring home the Provan-Summons Trophy for the first time.

Cowboys 17 Broncos 16. Clive Churchill Medallist: Johnathan Thurston.

2016: THE PORCH LIGHT IS TURNED OFF

After almost 50 years, the Cronulla Sharks claim their first NRL Grand Final victory. With the Storm ahead 12-8, a barnstorming Andrew Fifita beats five defenders and crashes under the posts. The Storm threaten to score and take the lead in the final play, but the scrambling defence from Ricky Leutele secures Cronulla’s long-awaited premiership celebrations. 

Sharks 14 Storm 12. Clive Churchill Medallist: Luke Lewis.

2017: THE BIG THREE’S LAST HURRAH

In their final game together, Melbourne Storm trio Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk come together to create a spectacular try. An outside, inside, outside-again play puts Billy Slater in to open pasture untouched. An offload and a 20m pass later and Josh Addo-Carr is across in the corner. 

Storm 34 Cowboys 6. Clive Churchill Medallist: Billy Slater. 

2018: IT’S ROOSTERS v STORM

Storm and the Roosters are the two most dominate NRL clubs this century – and they finally face each other in a Grand Final this Sunday. Incredibly, 15 of the last 20 Grand Finals have featured either the Roosters or the Storm. 2018 is the first time they will meet in a premiership decider. The Melbourne Storm will be appearing in their ninth and third consecutive NRL Grand Final at ANZ Stadium. The Sydney Roosters will be appearing in their seventh Grand Final – their first appearance since their 2013 Premiership win.There has not been a single NRL finals series that did not feature either the Roosters or Storm.

 

Who will it be in 2018?