The Penrith Panthers and Melbourne Storm will face off in the 23rd NRL Grand Final this weekend as both teams seek to cap this unique season by raising the Provan-Summons Trophy.
In the spirit of nostalgia we have gone back through the archives to find our top 10 Grand Finals of the NRL era.
We’re keeping it to 1998 and beyond and we can only hope there will be some debate and disagreement with our completely subjective rankings.
Read on to see which game lands where in our Top 10 NRL Grand Finals.
NUMBER 10 – 1998: Broncos (38) def. Bulldogs (12)
The first decider under the newly reunited NRL banner was contested by the lone Super League champions Brisbane and the red hot Bulldogs, who had not lost since Round 19.
There were still senses of the old divide, particularly on the Broncos uniforms which were similar to the year before but now there would be a clear idea who would be crowned the true champions of rugby league in Australia.
The Bulldogs held the lead after a back and forth first half before the Broncos class showed through in the second half.
Tonie Carroll scored just after the break to start a 28-0 run that would see them run away with the first NRL Grand Final.
NUMBER 9 – 2012: Storm (14) def. Bulldogs (4)
The top two sides in the competition faced off in the 2012 decider which the Storm won a fiery encounter.
A fight sparked the game into life in the 25th minute as Billy Slater auditioned for a spot on the Melbourne Victory with a slide tackle before an allegation of biting against James Graham.
From there two more first half tries was enough for the Storm to build a lead that would not be run down.
Cooper Cronk lead the way for the Storm and was rewarded with the Clive Churchill Medal.
NUMBER 8 – 2006: Broncos (15) def. Storm (8)
The first fully interstate NRL Grand Final, the Storm were overwhelming favourites to kick off what turned out to be their era of dominance after their juggernaut season.
Brisbane on the other hand had surprised many with their run through the finals in Shane Webcke’s final season.
As the two sides took to the field, the almost 80000 strong crowd would have allayed some fears that people would not make the trek to the ground but the fans were in full force.
A crowd of nearly 80000 people allayed the fears that fans would not make the trek to the stadium and both sets of fans were out in force.
While the points were at a premium thanks to the fierce tackling of both sides, there were still plenty of threatening attacking raids.
A Darren Lockyer field goal sealed the title for Brisbane with just over seven minutes remaining.
When the Broncos needed a leader, their captain was the one to step up and deliver.
NUMBER 7 – 2001: Knights (30) def. Eels (24)
The final champions of the ARL era got their first (& so far only) NRL title in dramatic circumstances over the Eels.
It looked like the game would be all Newcastle early on with three quick tries and Eels forward Andrew Ryan held up over the line, there was no way through in the first half.
At 28-6 with a quarter of an hour to go, it looked all over but the Eels gave themselves a chance on the last play of the game.
The rally was too late to give the Eels a real chance of coming back but it did salvage a game which could have been much uglier than it turned out to be.
NUMBER 6 – 2005: Tigers (30) def. Cowboys (16)
This game will be remembered for Benji Marshall’s audacious flick pass that set up Pat Richards’ try that capped a 95 metre counter attack on the stroke of halftime.
North Queensland were always the Broncos little brother but their run to the decider showed how they had grown up as a club.
Once the Tigers took the lead in the second half the result was academic but the quality of the attacking play makes this a game to remember for sure.
NUMBER 5 – 2004: Bulldogs (16) def. Roosters (13)
By this stage of the decade, there were plenty of fans that were sick of seeing the Roosters make the Grand Final but in that same regard, plenty that also enjoyed seeing one of the more talented teams of the era make the biggest game of the year.
Also known as the game where Steve Price missed out due to a badly timed injury, the Bulldogs overcame the Roosters in a back and forth encounter.
The Roosters were up 13-6 at the break but a two try second half pushed the Bulldogs over the line and the emotions spilled over after three seasons of drama.
The celebrations by the Bulldogs fans were also worth some points when evaluating where to rank this game.
NUMBER 4 – 2016: Sharks (14) def. Storm (12)
Last year’s grand final finds its way into the top five as the Sharks broke their Premiership drought over the Melbourne Storm.
Melbourne took the lead in a tough and physical game with fifteen minutes to go, as the minor premiers they would have fancied their chances to go on with it.
Cronulla had other ideas and it was the very divisive Andrew Fifita who scored what turned out to be the decisive try soon after.
As the Storm mounted more and more pressure as the minutes ticked away, Will Chambers had a chance to offload to Cronk for the winner but hesitated and was wrapped up.
Cronulla had to repel one last raid from Melbourne and in the last second chaos found a way to find the ball carrier and bring him down to wrap it up.
NUMBER 3 – 2003: Panthers (18) def. Roosters (6)
This rain soaked contest showed exactly why you don’t need points to have a great game.
For the duration of this contest, it was a tense arm wrestle between two sides that would not back down.
The Roosters dynasty was always expected to be able to find a way through the Panthers and get over the top.
With the scores locked at six apiece and 53 minutes on the clock, the Roosters had a break that would have blown the game wide open for them.
Scott Sattler’s memorable effort to run down and tackle the streaking Todd Byrne and take him out of play vaults this Grand Final up to the third spot.
Ten minutes later, Luke Priddis crashed over the line to take the lead before Luke Rooney sealed the game out wide while the Roosters were all focused on a possible field goal attempt.
NUMBER 2 – 1999: Storm (20) def. Dragons (18)
One way to establish the strength of the new competition is to produce a memorable comeback between two sides formed as a result of the NRL merger.
The new boys from Melbourne were in just their second season while the St George Illawarra Dragons combined two of the more famous names from the ARL days.
With the Dragons up 14-0 after half an hour it looks as though the combined forces of the two ARL sides would run away with this game.
Ten minutes after the interval, Anthony Mundine bombed a certain try that could have seen the Dragons pull out of reach, but the Storm capitalizsed and went down the other end to get their first four pointer of the match.
This game is in the top two just for the final five minutes however as Brett Kimorely put up a bomb to the right wing and Craig Smith was taken out with a high tackle as he was about to ground it.
Referee Bill Harrigan (sporting a much more conservative haircut compared to his flowing locks of the year before) awarded a penalty try which gave Matt Geyer the opportunity to put the Storm in the lead from right in front.
This came at a time when the whole country was not sick of the Storm winning and it completed a fairytale retirement for Glenn Lazarus who won his fifth Grand Final with his third different club.
This game was so close to being number one and were it not for the next game on this list, it would have been easily.
NUMBER 1 – 2015: Cowboys (17) def. Broncos (16) [OT]
There was never going to be another option as the best Grand Final, the Cowboys and Broncos put on a memorable showcase that will take a lot to top.
A strip of Ben Hunt by Kyle Feldt when the Broncos looked like they would have it in the bag sparked a frantic final 60 seconds of the second half.
It was literally last chance saloon for the Cowboys on their final tackle and the clock about to hit 80 minutes, Thurston bounced off a couple of tackles after a loose pass to get things started.
With the ball spread to the right, a freakish pass was collected by Feldt who finished off the move with an excellent finish to tie things up.
It would have been fitting for Thurston’s conversion to end the game there but it was a contest that deserved extra time.
In a cruel twist of fate, it would be decided by an error by Ben Hunt who dropped the opening kick off and a few tackles later, Thurston won the Cowboys their first title.
Seriously, HOW GOOD WAS THIS GAME?