2003 NRL season
|2003 National Rugby League|
|Premiers||Penrith (2nd title)|
|Minor premiers||Penrith (2nd title)|
|Points scored||8993 (total)
47.582 (per match)
15,689 (per match)
|Top point scorer(s)||Hazem El Masri (294)|
|Top try scorer(s)||Rhys Wesser (25)|
The 2003 NRL premiership was the 96th season of professional rugby league football in Australia and the sixth run by the National Rugby League. Fifteen teams competed, with the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles returning in place of their failed joint-venture club, the Northern Eagles. Ultimately, the Penrith Panthers defeated reigning champions, the Sydney Roosters in the 2003 NRL grand final, claiming their first premiership since 1991.
Season summary 
Season 2003 brought in the new "golden point" extra time rule, where after 80 minutes, if the game was drawn, then 10 minutes of extra time was played until one team scored the winning point(s). The salary cap for the 2003 season was A$3.25 million per club for their 25 highest-paid players.
The first round of the Premiership improved on the previous year's in terms of attendance and television ratings. The major story this season was the resurgence of the Penrith Panthers, who defied the critics and naysayers to win their second premiership in their illustrious history since joining the competition in 1967. Coached by John Lang and captained by Craig Gower, the Panthers were the surprise minor premiers, dominating the competition despite consistent disparagement from many sources, and would continue their outstanding form in the finals, beating the Broncos, Warriors and finally the Roosters in the grand final.
The Dally M Medal ceremony was cancelled by the NRL after negotiations with the players' union, the Rugby League Professionals Association, stalled. All votes for the award were destroyed. It was later revealed that with one round of the regular season to play, Craig Gower was leading both Brad Fittler and Clinton Schifcofske by one point in the overall points tally. However, with the ceremony officially cancelled more than a week out from the awards, no points were allocated in the final round of the season.
Also at the end of the season, a squad of players from the NRL premiership went on the 2003 Kangaroo tour.
The lineup of fifteen teams for the 2003 premiership remained unchanged from the previous season, except that the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles rejoined the competition since their merger with North Sydney Bears in 1999, taking the place of the failed Northern Eagles. This ended North Sydney's representation in the League.
Records and statistics 
- Anthony Minichiello ran 4,571 metres with the ball in 2003, more than any other player in the competition.
- Nathan Brown became the youngest non-playing coach in premiership history at the age of 29. Brown had retired from playing in 2001 after a neck injury in a trial game.
- Referee Bill Harrigan's tenth grand final in 2003, the final match of his career, stands as the record for the most grand finals officiated by a referee.
- On 23 August the Parramatta Eels beat the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 74-4, at the time the third highest winning margin for a club game in Australian rugby league history.
- Also on 23 August, the North Queensland Cowboys beat the South Sydney Rabbitohs 60-8, the biggest win and most points in a match in Cowboys history.
- The Brisbane Broncos set a record for their longest losing streak, from round 20 to the 4th qualifying final.
- The Penrith Panthers became the first team to win the minor premiership and hold bottom spot on the ladder in the same season.
- The Penrith Panthers won 8 matches in a row from 19 April - 7 June, most wins in a row in the clubs history.
- The Bulldogs equalled their worst defeat with a 50-4 loss to the Melbourne Storm in round 22.
- The Brisbane Broncos suffered their worst ever defeat at Suncorp Stadium, losing to the Bulldogs 40-4 in round 18. They also only recorded one victory at the Stadium in the season, which came two weeks earlier with a 10-8 win over the Sydney Roosters (who, at that time had not won at Suncorp since 1991, however this drought ended in 2005).
In 2003 the NRL sacked their advertising agency of the previous two years, Saatchi & Saatchi Sydney, and took the unusual step of coming up with their own in-house creative concept. Former Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks player and then current Parramatta Eels assistant coach Alan Wilson hit upon the idea of using the Hoodoo Gurus' 1987 hit "What's My Scene?" with reworked lyrics as "That's My Team".
"and another thing, I'm discovering lately, I'm a bit crazy, for my rugby league team "
Wilson is a friend of Hoodoo Gurus singer Dave Faulkner and made the necessary arrangements which included re-uniting the band to re-record the track. Faulkner is a long-time supporter of the Sharks and the original film clip of "What's My Scene?" had included shots of band members in Wests and Cronulla-Sutherland jumpers.
The ad focuses on the grass roots supporters at all levels of the game and in its finished version includes shots of fans from the Cessnock Goannas, a proud Bulldogs supporter and a Penrith teenager with a broken leg signed by her heroes. These images are included with the usual fare of pre-season team training images, big-hits, clever passes and post-try celebrations.
To produce the ad the League returned to the agency who created and produced the Tina Turner campaigns from 1989 to 1995 - Hertz Walpole Advertising by now renamed MJW Hakuhodo.
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Ladder progression 
- Numbers highlighted in green indicate that the team finished the round inside the top 8.
- Numbers highlighted in blue indicates the team finished first on the ladder in that round.
- Numbers highlighted in red indicates the team finished in last place on the ladder in that round
- Underlined numbers indicate that the team had a bye during that round.
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Finals series 
Grand final 
Half Time: 6 – 0
Referee: Bill Harrigan
Venue: Telstra Stadium, Sydney
31st – Penrith 6–0 (Rooney try, Girdler goal), 50th – Penrith 6–6 (Hegarty try, Fitzgibbon goal), 65th – Penrith 12–6 (Priddis try, Campbell goal), 73rd – Penrith 18–6 (Rooney try, Campbell goal).
Sources and footnotes 
- "NRL salary cap guide | | ONE SPORT". tvnz.co.nz. 2006-02-22. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
- Masters, Roy (2003-03-17). "The circus is back in town". The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Digital). Retrieved 2009-12-12.
- Pace, Daniel (7 September 2003). "Freddie sympathises with Gower but backs players' stance". Australian Associated Press. Retrieved 2007-09-10.
- Proszenko, Adrian (6 May 2012). "Gallen set to smash record". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
- Henderson, Philip; Fitzgibbon, Liam (1 April 2008). "Bennett, Furner set for new Roles". The Age. Retrieved 28 June 2010.
- B&T magazine article 2003
- NRL official website
- 2003 NRL "That's My Team" Season Advertisement
- 2003 NRL Grand Final at sportsphotography.net