After seven long months of backing in our teams and screaming at the TV, the NRL Grand Final has finally arrived. Months of tight losses, big wins, Friday night footy beers and above all else, telling the umpires to open their eyes.

There’s nothing better than this time of year, we get to see the two most worthy teams go head to head as we catch up with mates and tip a few back to celebrate the start of the end of the year. 

There are moments in NRL Grand Finals that stand out above the rest. Benji Marshall flicking an impossible pass to Pat Richards and sending him over the line to secure the Tigers with a premiership. Or Sam Burgess playing through a fractured eye socket and still winning the Clive medal. Talk about a champion that will go down in history.

We’ve taken a look at NRL Grand Finals in the last twenty years and challenged ourselves to pick our top ten, easy right? Wrong. Tears were shed, limited sleep was had, and a few harsh insults were thrown around. But we’ve managed to pull it together, even though we could’ve named all 20 years as being pretty special (honourable mention to the Melbourne Storm for their 2009 title win, I fought for you to make it but it just wasn’t to be). Is there a Grand Final that stands out for you, is it on the list?

Without further adieu, let’s get into it.

10. Sea Eagles vs Roosters, 2013 NRL Grand Final

We’re kicking off with a huge win for the Sydney Roosters in 2013, following a significant club rebuild, they went up as underdogs against finals veterans, the Manly Sea Eagles.

With just 10 minutes to go, and just two points in it, we held our breath as James Maloney managed to get a grubbing kick through Manly’s left side. Everyone thought the opportunity was gone, no one was getting near it. The hopes of a famous victory began to crumble, however, Michael Jennings stepped in.

Flying in from nowhere, Jennings snatched the ball from the air and in the middle of a pack of Manly players. Stamping the ball on the ground in an incredible showing of athleticism.

A huge moment, in a huge game.

9. Storm vs Bulldogs, 2012 NRL Grand Final

There’s something about the two top teams in the whole competition facing off in the final match of the year. The best of the best giving it their all on the field in one last challenge. 

A fight sparked the game into life in the 25th minute with a young Billy Slater causing a stir. Slater gave the Melbourne Victory a run for their money with a slide tackle. Not before an allegation of biting against James Graham came to light.

From there, two more first half tries were enough for the Storm to build a lead. Cooper Cronk led the way, and as a result, he received the Clive Churchill Medal.

A massive win for the Storm, this went beyond just winning the 2012 premiership. This win came after the 2007 and 2009 titles were stripped due to major salary cap breaches. Which meant it was officially their second title, and maybe the most important of them all.

8. Broncos vs Storm, 2006 NRL Grand Final

It was the first time it was a complete interstate NRL Grand Final. The Storm were overwhelming favourites to kick off what turned out to be their era of dominance.

The Broncos had surprised many with their run through the finals, particularly as icon Shane Webcke played out his final season.

As the two sides took to the field, the almost 80,000 strong crowd made the the trek to the ground. The fans out in full force, loud and proud.

While the points weren’t coming in fast due to the fierce tackling of both sides, there were still plenty of attacking threats. 

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.

7. Knights vs Eels, 2001 NRL Grand Final

The final champions of the Australian Rugby League era got their first (and so far only) NRL title in dramatic circumstances over the Eels.

Newcastle started strong, with three quick tries and a flurry of defensive tackles. Eels forward, Andrew Ryan couldn’t seem to make his way through the mess. At 28-6 with a quarter of an hour to go, it looked all but over, but the Eels gave themselves a chance on the last play of the game.

The late charge wasn’t successful for the Eels, but it made for one of the most exciting finishes we’ve seen.

6. Bulldogs vs Roosters, 2004 NRL Grand Final

By 2004, many were sick of seeing the Roosters make Grand Final (except for Roosters fans). Really, we were lucky to witness one of the best teams in the modern era, dominate each year.

This year was different. In a huge upset, the Bulldogs overcame the Roosters in a back and forth encounter that had us all on the edge of our seats.

The Roosters led 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 came to a conclusion.

5. Panthers vs Roosters, 2003 NRL Grand Final

In 2001, Penrith finished last. In 2002, they finished the season in 12th. October 5th, 2003, the Panthers won their second premiership of all time, in a feat no one saw coming.

Remaining consistent throughout the year, the Panthers were called pretenders from the start. No one believed they’d be able to last the year, let alone take the win over the in-form Roosters.

Leading into the game, the Roosters were the clear favourites, and Penrith had only one player that had ever played in a Grand Final before. They’d go on to defeat the Roosters, 18-6, shocking the country and leaving the doubters in their wake.

4. West Tigers vs Cowboys, 2005 NRL Grand Final

The coming together of two fairy tales, the West Tigers and the North Queensland Cowboys, who both came together for their first shot at the title.

The two teams made it clear that they would do whatever it takes, wanting to lock in their first official premiership.

The match carried a handful of highlights, none more memorable than one of the most spectacular tries in NRL history, with Benji Marshall’s flick pass sending Pat Richards over the line. The Tigers proved too good, showing their maturity throughout the game.

Crowned the 2005 premiers, in a maiden title win. It doesn’t get much better than that.

3. Melbourne Storm vs Cronulla Sharks, 2016 NRL Grand Final

When you think of the Melbourne Storm vs Cronulla, one word comes to mind. Grit.

The lung-busting show we had in front of us between the Storm and the Sharks was nothing short of incredible. With the Sharks inevitably taking the chocolates, the 14-12 scoreline saw the club claim its first-ever premiership.

A 70th minute try from Andrew Fifita helped the Sharks to overcome the second half surge in front of a home crowd, and that officially brought the Sharks 49 year title drought to an end. Did we cry? Yes. Find someone who didn’t.

2. Rabbitohs vs Bulldogs, 2014 NRL Grand Final

43 years in the making. That’s the main takeaway you need from this one. A long time between drinks for the South Rabbitohs, and they sensationally won their 21st premiership in 2014 that sent Sydney wild.

Fans had endured a lot, and the club had struggled prior to Russell Crowe’s involvement (yes, we’re talking about our very own Gladiator), but more importantly, this Grand Final win just felt different. 

Rabbitohs lock, Sam Burgess, etched his name into history in taking out the Clive Churchill Medal. An enormous effort, playing through the entire match with multiple fractures in his cheek-bone and eye-socket.

As the siren sounded, people cried in the stands, players fell to the ground, and it felt like the whole of Australia was celebrating, it was hard not to get behind the bunnies.

1. Cowboys vs Broncos, 2015 NRL Grand Final

A golden point thriller, and a match that will go down in history. 

It doesn’t sit at our number one for any old reason, the maiden premiership for the Cowboys might be one one of the best NRL matches we’ve ever seen.

The Cowboys trailed 16-12 for most of the second half, before winger Kyle Feldt scored in the corner in the final seconds to take the game into golden point extra-time. Broncos half-back Ben Hunt dropped the ball from the extra time kick off to give the Cowboys their chance. Enter Jonathan Thurston, swamped by the Broncos defence he couldn’t be stopped. From 20 metres out Thurston kicked the winning field goal in the 83rd minute of the game. After that, the siren sounded, and North Queensland celebrated in a frenzy.

Thurston accepted the Clive Churchill Medal shaking in disbelief.

Come the first weekend of October, you’ll know where to find us. At the local, our eyes firmly planted on the big screen telling anyone above six foot to politely move (seriously, don’t try to get in my way).

Keen to find out where to watch the finals series in the lead up to the Grand Final? Take a look at our top five places to watch the 2022 finals season.

Keep an eye on the NRL fixture here to see who makes it into the final showdown.

Where can I watch this year’s NRL grand final? Find your local here.