The NRL premiers for the 2013 season were decided between two Sydney based clubs, the minor premiers Sydney Roosters and the 4th-placed Manly Warringah Sea Eagles. It was the first time in 41 years the two sides played for a premiership title, which Manly last were victorious in claiming the 1972 title in the then NSWRL competition. Both the Roosters and the Sea Eagles have now featured prominently in grand finals since the turn of the new century, with the Roosters making the grand finals in 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2010 whilst the Sea Eagles have featured in 2007, 2008 and 2011. Despite making the most appearances in the past 14 seasons the Roosters had only been successful in one of their five previous appearances, when they defeated grand final debutants New Zealand Warriors 30 points to 8 in 2002. The Sea Eagles' last premiership victory was also against the Warriors when they defeated them in the 2011 decider 24 points to 10. It marked the first time since 2005 that either Wayne Bennett, Craig Bellamy or Des Hasler will not coach a side to a grand final, as each have claimed a grand final victory for the past seven seasons. Both Trent Robinson and Geoff Toovey were debutant grand final coaches in their first and second respective years in the NRL.
Note: Both Boyd Cordner and Luke O'Donnell were late inclusions to the Roosters squad with Cordner replacing Frank-Paul Nuuausala at lock and both Nuuausala and O'Donnell replacing Isaac Liu and Dylan Napa on the interchange bench.
Long standing Roosters fullback Anthony Minichiello played his sixth grand final for his club after having previously featured in every premiership decider they have reached since 2000, although his only victory came from 2002. Were the Roosters to lose the game he would have been the first player in the history of Australian rugby league to go on to lose five grand finals.
Manly began strongly and had control early on. Pressure led to Roosters five-eighth James Maloney kicking out on the full, and a tackle from his opposing number Kieran Foran on back-rower Sonny-Bill Williams led to a dropped ball and possession for the Sea Eagles, which quickly led to their first try, scored by winger Jorge Taufua. Captain Jamie Lyon missed the conversion, making it 4-0 to the Sea Eagles, however a penalty a few minutes later led to a scoreline of 6-0 by the 17th minute. The Roosters came back to score through winger Daniel Tupou on the back of a cross-field bomb from Maloney, and the Five-eighth's sideline conversion brought the scoreline to 6–6. A few minutes later a contentious penalty to the Roosters gave them another two points, and they took the lead into the halftime break, 8–6.
In only the 43rd minute, Manly were in scoring position, with halfback Daly Cherry-Evans grubber-kicking for Lyon, however he was tackled without the ball by Roosters substitute Mitch Aubusson, leading the video referees to rule a penalty try. Lyon converted it to bring the Sea Eagles back to the lead at 12-8. A forced drop-out conceded by the Roosters put Manly into attacking position quickly and they capitalised, Matai scoring and Lyon again converting to push the score out to 18-8 with only 30 minutes remaining. Roosters back-rower Aiden Guerra next scored however, and a conversion brought the Roosters back into the game at 18-14, before a line-break and offload from Williams to Maloney opened the Sea Eagles' defensive line. Maloney sprinted downfield and put a forward pass missed by the referees to Minichello. The Roosters captain then put centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall in to score which, along with a conversion from Maloney, put the Minor Premiers back in the lead at 20–18 with 18 minutes to go. An error from the Roosters put Manly back into contention, but a knock on from winger David Williams and a lack of capitalisation on a Roosters mistake brought them back to the Manly end of the field following another line-break from the Roosters' Williams. A grubber kick from Maloney led to a freakish try to centre Michael Jennings, who grounded the ball only centimetres inside the dead ball line. A final conversion to Maloney took the score to 26–18, and even a short kick-off attempt from Manly couldn't crack the Roosters' defence in the last six minutes of play.
Sydney Roosters captain Anthony Minichiello became the first fullback to captain his team to a Grand Final victory since Frank 'Skinny' McMillan in 1934. Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans was awarded the Clive Churchill Medal for best and fairest in the Grand Final, the first awarded to a player from a losing side since 1993, & only the third player from a losing side ever to be granted the medal. Roosters coach Trent Robinson became the first rookie coach to win a premiership since Ricky Stuart in 2002 and only the sixth coach in the history of the NRL.