Rivalries in the National Rugby League

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This is a list of rivalries in the National Rugby League:

Traditional rivals[edit]

Sydney Roosters v South Sydney Rabbitohs[edit]

The rivalry between the Sydney Roosters and the South Sydney Rabbitohs rugby league teams is the longest surviving in the current National Rugby League competition. The two teams are the only remaining "foundation clubs" in the league, that is, they were both participants in the inaugural season of the New South Wales Rugby Football League premiership. Between them, the two clubs have managed to secure many premierships and minor premierships, mostly before 1975 and with Souths being the most successful.

The two clubs neighbour each other in the inner suburbs of Sydney and over the years have often been in bitter dispute over numerous issues. Despite being the two teams to have dominated the early seasons of the premiership and in fact being the two clubs to contest the first Grand Final, the last time the two clubs met in a finals match was in the 1938 season.

Since the Rabbitohs were readmitted into the NRL in 2002, the Roosters and Rabbitohs always play each other in the first round of each season, with the exception of 2003. Since 2005, home ground advantage has been alternated between the two teams. In the odd years, the Roosters have home ground advantage; in the even years the Rabbitohs have the home ground advantage.

Incidents[edit]

The Roosters and their fans have built up rivalries with other clubs, particularly the South Sydney Rabbitohs, the other remaining foundation club. The Roosters and the Rabbitohs share inner-Sydney territory, causing a strong rivalry since 1908. The rivalry increased after 1950 due to conflict between junior territories, and escalated once more in the 1990s with the increased financial success of the Roosters eclipsing the decreasing funds of the Rabbitohs. In 2005, the Rabbitohs broke a ten-year, thirteen-game losing streak to the Roosters in a close 17–16 match.[1]

Although the Rabbitohs drew key Roosters players to the Redfern-based club in previous years, the Roosters signed Rabbitohs captain Ashley Harrison and former South Sydney junior Braith Anasta from the Bulldogs; whom the Rabbitohs also heavily pursued—in 2005.[2]

North Sydney Bears vs Manly Warringah Sea Eagles[edit]

Prior to the ill-fated Northern Eagles joint venture from 2000 to 2002 which resulted in North Sydney's ejection from the first grade competition due to insufficient funds, the rivalry between Manly and foundation club Norths was arguably one of rugby league's most harsh. North Sydney enjoyed a monopoly on the Northern Beaches in their early years and lost this stronghold when Manly entered the competition in 1947. Manly also signed the legendary Norths winger and record try scorer Ken Irvine off the club in 1971. Within his three year stint at the Sea Eagles, Irvine won two premierships, a feat he could not achieve at Norths within a twelve year time frame.[3] Manly also enjoyed a strong overall record over their northern rivals from 1947-1999, winning six premierships within this period to the Bears' nil. The Bears did eliminate Manly in the 1991 finals series, but otherwise, Manly had a far superior head-to-head record over Norths.

Due to financial problems on both sides, Manly and the Bears formed a joint venture in late 1999, the Northern Eagles, which lasted only three years and eventuated with Manly re-entering the NRL in 2003, and the Bears being void of any first grade representation. However, in 2005, North Sydney officials announced they were making a bid to revive the foundation club at a first grade level as the Central Coast Bears, and are hopeful for a re-entry in 2016 when the NRL gives a full review on expansion at the conclusion of the 2014 season, having been already rejected re-entries for 2007 and 2013.

Sydney Roosters v St. George Illawarra Dragons[edit]

These two clubs have built a significant rivalry dating back to St George Illawarra's pre-merger identites. St. George claimed their fifth of 11 consecutive premierships against the Roosters in 1960, but it was in 1975 that the Roosters ended a record-breaking season with a 38-0 thumping of St. George in the Grand Final that year. The Roosters were also one of only a few teams that the Illawarra Steelers had a superior head to head record over. As a joint-venture, St George Illawarra claimed their first title by defeating the Roosters 32-6 in the Grand Final of 2010. Since 2002, the two clubs play every year on Anzac Day.

St. George Illawarra Dragons v South Sydney Rabbitohs[edit]

Historically the Rabbitohs and the Dragons are the most successful clubs in Australian rugby league. The Rabbitohs have won 20 premierships, their last coming in 1971, against St George, whereas the St. George half of the merger won 15; their last premiership coming in 1979. When the merger won the premiership in 2010, questions were asked about whether this was the Dragons' first premiership, as it was won by the merger, or their sixteenth as part of the St. George half of the merger. Despite this, all official statistics of the NRL state that the St George Dragons played their last season in first grade in 1998, and that St George Illawarra is a separate entity.

The Rabbitohs and Dragons met in several Grand Finals many times throughout their history, and shared the same geographical area that is Sydney's inner-southern suburbs. The Charity Shield was contested between these two clubs throughout the 1990s; in 2002 it was revived after Souths were readmitted into the competition. This match is always played as a pre-season fixture. Until 2005, the match was played at the Sydney Football Stadium; from 2006 onwards the match is played at ANZ Stadium, the Rabbitohs' home ground. Since St George Illawarra's establishment in 1999, the Dragons have enjoyed a strong record over Souths. After defeating the Dragons in their inaugural meeting in 1999, South Sydney were unable to beat their Sydney rivals at all from 2000 to 2006. However, they ended the Dragons finals hopes in 2007 by defeating them at Wollongong 24-14 late in the season. St George Illawarra returned serve by ending Souths' finals hopes in 2010 by defeating them 40-24 at Kogarah Oval in Round 26; also securing the minor premiership.

Sydney Roosters v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs[edit]

The Sydney Roosters have a long-standing rivalry with fellow Sydney team, the Canterbury Bulldogs. Whilst both teams had crossed premiership paths in Grand Finals on four occasions, the most significant chapter came when the Sydney Roosters won the 2002 NRL Premiership on the back of a 10-game winning streak. This was the same year the premiership favourite Bulldogs were stripped of 37 points due to systematic breaches of the salary cap in the 2001 and the 2002 seasons.[4]

After the 2004 Grand Final the rivalry between both teams settled down. However since 2006, the rivalry has once again re-ignited with players and officials from both clubs trading blows against each other. The Roosters during this time acquired four of the Bulldogs first grade players; Braith Anasta (2006), Nate Myles (2007), Mark O'Meley (2008) and Willie Mason (2008). All four have played representative rugby league and all except Nate Myles were a part of the 2004 Bulldogs premiership winning team.

The return of former Bulldog Sonny Bill Williams to rugby league, specifically the Roosters, in 2013 following his walkout from the Bulldogs in 2008 saw the rivalry between Canterbury and Easts reignite.[citation needed]

St. George Illawarra Dragons v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs[edit]

St George Illawarra has a fierce rivalry with neighbour the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs. The Bulldogs were founded in 1935, 14 years after St George. St. George inflicted a premiership record 91-6 defeat of Canterbury in 1935 but Canterbury enjoyed premiership success first in 1938, and St George in 1941. However, St.George recorded 11 straight premierships in the years following (1955–1966). It was also Canterbury who put an end to their Premiership run in 1967, when they beat them by a point in the preliminary final to face the Rabbitohs in the Grand Final. Since then, both clubs inflicted Premiership defeats on the other, St George defeating the Bulldogs in their last Grand Final success in 1979, Canterbury returning the favour in 1985.[5] The Bulldogs were a "bogey team" for the Illawarra Steelers, with Illawarra only beating them on five from twenty seven occasions, the last victory coming in 1992. However, one of the Steelers' greatest wins in their short history in first grade was a 44-4 triumph over a star-studded Canterbury in 1991 at WIN Stadium. Ironically, both the St George Dragons and Illawarra Steelers played their last games in first grade against the Bulldogs in 1998, both losing 20-12 and 25-24 respectively, before merging to form the new St George Illawarra Dragons in 1999. Illawarra and Canterbury still share somewhat of a rivalry in the NSW Cup. For some time, both St George Illawarra and Canterbury were rivals in the NRL Heritage Round.

The Bulldogs have enjoyed a relatively strong record over their Sydney rivals over the past fourteen years. The Bulldogs were the first team to hold St George Illawarra scoreless in a game, defeating them 24-0 in 2000. The Dragons and the Bulldogs played in a semi final in 2001, with the Dragons winning 23-22. In 2002, the Bulldogs held on to defeat St George Illawarra 28-26 in Wollongong, after leading 28-6 at half time. The Dragons were able to beat Canterbury only once between 2002 and July 2008, with a win in early 2003. They eventually overcame the injury-ravaged Bulldogs for the first time in five years in 2008, defeating them 30-0. Ironically, this game was the week after Bulldogs superstar Sonny Bill Williams walked out on the club [6] The Dragons then started a winning streak of their own over Canterbury, defeating them in a controversial encounter 20-18 in May 2009, and recorded four straight wins during 2010-11. The Bulldogs then returned serve, winning both clashes in 2012 and 2013.

St. George Illawarra Dragons v Parramatta Eels[edit]

The rivalry between St. George and Parramatta stretches back to 1977 when St. George and Parramatta played out the first ever drawn Grand Final result. The Eels, seeking their first ever premiership after having finished on top of the ladder at the end of the regular season, were beaten 22-0 in the replay by the Dragons, which won its first premiership since 1966.

The rivalry continued into the St. George Illawarra merger era; the Eels being their first opponents in the merger's debut season of 1999. This match, the second ever played at ANZ Stadium (the first match was between Newcastle and Manly), the venue for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games the following year, was won by the Eels by a scoreline of 20-10.

Following a match in 2004 at Parramatta Stadium which was won by the Dragons 37-6, Parramatta fans booed the team off the field; the Eels having lost their fourth straight match to that point. It was this loss that increased the pressure on then-Eels (and former St George Dragons and Illawarra Steelers) coach Brian Smith following what had been a relatively disappointing season for the Eels.

There have recently been some controversial matches between the Dragons and the Eels. Firstly, in Round 18, 2005, the Eels won 40-14 in a match which saw Trent Barrett and PJ Marsh trade blows after Marsh's crude charge-down attempt at Barrett, sparking an all-in brawl whilst the Eels' Wade McKinnon sprinted to score a match-turning 80-metre try.[7] The return match, although less controversial, saw a Dragons' 25-22 victory in Round 24 which allowed the two teams to share equal first place on the ladder at season's end (the Eels' superior percentage meant they won the minor premiership from the Dragons).

A less-memorable match saw no points scored between the two teams in Round 13, 2006 in the first 70 minutes of play before the Eels slotted a field goal with nine minutes remaining, before the Dragons struck back with two one-pointers to take a 2-1 lead. The Dragons then scored a try through Matt Cooper with mere seconds remaining on the clock to claim an 8-1 victory.[8]

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Parramatta Eels[edit]

Manly and Parramatta have built a huge rivalry since their entries to the competition in 1947. Not much was made of their clashes until the mid 70's, and in particular the 1976 Grand Final in which Manly denied the Parramatta club a maiden premiership. Further clashes through to the mid 80's cemented a fierce rivalry between many of the clubs supporters. This rivalry has continued through the 2000s, with many notable matches between these clubs, arguably the most notable being the 36–34 win to Manly, at Brookvale, on 18 May 2003, which was the first ever golden point match, Ben Walker, the Manly 5/8th scoring the winning penalty goal, the 23–22 Manly win on 30 April 2006 at the SCG, after being down 16–0 near the end of the first half, the match being held as part of a 30th anniversary event of the famous 1976 Grand Final,[9] and the 20–16 win to Manly, at Parramatta Stadium, on 18 April 2008 where Manly won after having 4 players forced off through injury throughout the match, and Heath L'Estrange scoring the match-winning (and his first) try for Manly in the 75th minute [10]

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks[edit]

This rivalry has been dubbed the "Battle of the Beaches", due to their geographical locations and areas.

Manly played the Sharks in two grand finals during the 1970s. The Sea Eagles took both titles, 10–7 in 1973 and 16–0 in the 1978 replay. This was after the 78 grand final ended in an 11-all draw. These two grand finals are renowned for being the most brutal in history. Today, the rivalry remains strong between the Sharks and the Sea Eagles, the battle of the Northern and Southern Beaches. Another interesting note is their record at each other's home grounds. Cronulla has only won five times at Brookvale in four decades, while Manly went twenty one years without a victory at the Sharks home ground, before finally breaking the drought with a 29–22 win in Rd, 19 2007 [11] and continuing their good form by smashing them 34–6, at Cronulla, in Rd. 18 2008,[12] which cemented Manly as a top side, although somewhat ironically Cronulla had had a rare 16–10 win against Manly at Brookvale Oval in Round 1 that year in what was a successful season for both sides. Both teams looked destined to make the 2008 NRL Grand Final, but Cronulla were soundly beaten 28–0 by the Melbourne Storm who were without suspended captain Cameron Smith, putting the Sharks rivalry on the backburner while the Storm rivalry intensified. Manly eliminated Cronulla in week two of the 2013 finals series.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Newcastle Knights[edit]

Since the mid-1990s, Manly built a rivalry with the Newcastle Knights club. In many ways this mirrors the Manly/Wests clashes where class distinction is used to fuel the perceived underdogs, in this case the working class city of Newcastle. In 1997, both Manly and Newcastle fought out the decider, with Newcastle winning 22–16. A controversial match in 2006 saw Knights captain Andrew Johns charged and suspended after an outburst at match officials.[13] Manly won this game 16-14.

These two clubs would meet during the 2006 NRL finals series with Newcastle claiming a 25-18 victory, but their win came at a cost with hooker Danny Buderus suspended for a spear tackle on Manly's Michael Robertson. In 2007, the Sea Eagles claimed a huge 50-16 victory in a match which marked ten years since the famous 1997 ARL Grand Final. More recently, the Knights had a 13-12 golden point win in 2008, but since then results have been divided with the home team always prevailing.

Sydney Roosters v Brisbane Broncos[edit]

Since the 2000 NRL Grand Final, won by the Broncos 14-6, the Roosters and Broncos have built on a rivalry which continues today. In the grand final rematch in 2001, which the Roosters won 20-18, Brad Fittler was booked for striking Scott Prince, after which Fittler was suspended for the first time in his first-grade career. In the 2002 preliminary final, played on the Roosters home ground (Sydney Football Stadium) despite the match being earmarked as a Broncos home game, the Roosters won 16-12, and went on to win the premiership. It was the last game for Broncos' winger Lote Tuqiri until 2010.

Between 2002 and 2010 inclusive, these two teams played each other in the traditional Good Friday match. The Broncos won the first match, before the Roosters claimed their first bragging rights in 2003. In the 2003 match, the Roosters through Brett Finch scored in just the first minute of play before going on to win a classic by 27-20 after falling behind 20-18 at halftime. The Broncos would dominate the fixture, winning the next six in succession, before the Roosters won the 2010 fixture by 25-6. Also in 2010 the Roosters won a thrilling match 34-30 at Suncorp Stadium with Shaun Kenny-Dowall scoring four tries for the Roosters.

Local derbies[edit]

Brisbane Broncos v North Queensland Cowboys[edit]

Between 1999 and 2006 inclusive, these two clubs were the only clubs from Queensland playing in the National Rugby League. In the early days, Brisbane would always beat North Queensland either in Brisbane or Townsville where the Cowboys are based.

A turning point in their rivalry came in the 2004 finals series where the Cowboys were drawn to play the Broncos. Due to both clubs being based from Queensland, the NRL rescheduled the second semi-final which was originally to be held at the Sydney Football Stadium, to Dairy Farmers Stadium, the Cowboys' home ground, the first time a semi-final had been taken outside of Sydney. Having never beaten the Broncos in their history, the Cowboys defied history and fought out a 10-0 win, which not only marked the Cowboys' first ever win over the Broncos but also the first of just two occasions where the Broncos have been held scoreless on Queensland soil.

Brisbane won both matches comfortably in 2005, but in 2006 the Cowboys won both matches, by scorelines of 36-4 and 26-16 in rounds one and twenty respectively. In the latter match, Cowboys halfback Johnathan Thurston injured his knee, yet the Cowboys went on to record a much needed win. North Queensland missed the finals that year, whilst the Broncos went on to win their sixth premiership.

Since 2005 these two clubs have played each other in the opening round of the season, with the exceptions of 2008 when it was held in round three, due to the Cowboys playing the Gold Coast Titans in their first ever match at Skilled Park and the Broncos meeting the Penrith Panthers (who was being captained by ex-Bronco Petero Civoniceva for the first time) at home, and in 2012 when it will be held in round two rather than the opening round. This is due to the Cowboys meeting the Titans at home and the Broncos away to Parramatta in the opening round of the 2012 season. Since 2007, the Broncos and Cowboys have always played on a Friday night.

St. George Illawarra Dragons v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks[edit]

One of the competition's most fiercest rivalries is between the St. George Illawarra Dragons and the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, which share the same geographic region. The Sharks were viewed as St George's "little brother" from 1967 to 1998 [6]. The St George Dragons and now the St George Illawarra Dragons have enjoyed more success than the Sharks, who remain premiership-less since their inception in 1967, while the Dragons managed to win their first title after eleven years in the competition, with the defunct St George winning fifteen titles. In fact, since the merged Dragons entered the competition in 1999, both the Dragons and Sharks have finished higher than another six times apiece. The rivalry increased in 2005 when they met in a final at a sold out WIN Stadium; the Dragons winning 28-22. Cronulla finished the 1999 season as minor premiers, but the Dragons beat them 24-8 in the preliminary final to progress to the 1999 NRL Grand Final at the Sharks' expense. The Dragons trailed 8-0 at halftime.

Both clubs have been accused of poaching players from the other, and compete for fans in the same region. During the Super League war, Cronulla-Sutherland was one of only 3 Sydney teams to join the rival competition, entrenching spite from Dragons fans. In 1999, the Cronulla CEO infamously cut up a Dragons jersey after a match at Toyota Stadium. Results were split slightly to Cronulla's favour from 1999 to 2008. The Dragons returned serve, and won the four clashes across 2009–2010, winning 10-6, 26-4, 38-0 and 22-4. However, in Round 2 of the 2011 season, the Sharks caused a major upset winning 16-10.

Brisbane Broncos v Gold Coast Titans[edit]

This rivalry was built based on the closeness of Brisbane and the Gold Coast, being almost 100 km apart from each other. The Gold Coast Titans' entry to the competition in 2007 saw the number of Queensland teams in the NRL raised back to three. The Broncos previously enjoyed a strong record over local rivals the Gold Coast Chargers from 1988 to 1998; both were the inaugural Queensland teams to enter the competition. Financial problems forced the Chargers to fold at the end of 1998, returning as the Titans in 2007.

The first match between the Titans and Broncos was played at Suncorp Stadium, despite being earmarked as a Titans home game, on April 13, 2007. The Titans upset the 2006 premiers by 28-16, but the match was remembered for Titans forward Michael Henderson suffering a shocking leg injury which wiped him out of the 2007 season. Round 17 saw a close match between these two teams, with a Darren Lockyer field goal ensuring a Broncos win, 19-18, in golden point extra time. Another golden point match came in Round 24, 2008, when again the Broncos prevailed, 25-21.

The rivalry increased in 2009 when the two teams met during the 2009 finals. The Titans, on their home ground were playing their first ever final after just three years in competition, but the Broncos won 40-32; a late comeback from the Titans stalling when Israel Folau scored an intercept try winning the game for the Broncos.

Parramatta Eels v Penrith Panthers[edit]

These two teams build their rivalry on each other as they are based in Sydney's west. The two suburbs are about 30 km away from each other, and both always love to beat each other.

In 2002, the Eels thrashed the Panthers 64-6, this coming after a season in which Parramatta finished first on the ladder and Penrith last. But they would not meet again until Round 26, 2003, when the Panthers, in front of a then-record crowd defeated the Eels 40-22 denying the Eels a place in the finals (Parramatta had to win by 28+ points). Penrith went on to win the premiership that year. Round 17, 2009 saw a Panthers win by 38-34 in which the lead changed several times, before the Eels recorded a huge 48-6 win in the penultimate round of the 2009 season.

A recent match came in Round 19, 2010, when the Panthers broke the home ground record, again against the Eels, but after leading 22-0 the Panthers capitulated to lose 34-28. Round 19, 2011 saw another thriller in Eels captain Nathan Hindmarsh's 300th NRL match, when Parramatta thought they won the match with a 22-16 lead, only for Penrith to level in the final seconds of the match, in controversial circumstances. Penrith went on to secure a golden point win with a field goal.

These two teams always seem to finish either higher or lower than each other. Not since 2000 have both teams made the finals in the same year. In 2010, the Panthers finished second on the ladder whilst Parramatta missed the finals altogether.

More recent rivals[edit]

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Melbourne Storm[edit]

This rivalry started in 2005 when Manly and Melbourne met during a top-of-the-table clash in round three. Manly and Melbourne had made unexpected bright starts to the season, when they met at Brookvale Oval. The Sea Eagles won the match 25-18 with Steve Matai making his debut for the Sea Eagles in place of the suspended John Hopoate. This was seen as the beginning of a Sea Eagles revival after several years out of the finals. In 2006, Manly again won at Brookvale Oval 34-12, before Melbourne claimed some revenge in the final round of the 2006 season denying Manly a place in the top four.

The turning point in this rivalry came in 2007 when the two teams played off in the 2007 NRL Grand Final. During the regular season, Manly won a close match 13-12 which was notable for sickening injuries suffered to George Rose (Sea Eagles) and Billy Slater (Storm). But in the Grand Final itself, Melbourne claimed a 34-8 win notable for Storm firebrand Michael Crocker knocking out Sea Eagles fullback Brett Stewart in a match-turning moment just after halftime.[citation needed]

The two teams would meet in the Grand Final again in 2008, this time Manly claiming a record-breaking 40-0 win over the Storm who were without suspended captain Cameron Smith. Manly led only 8-0 at halftime.

Controversy marred a late-season match in 2011 when the Storm and Sea Eagles, placed 1st and 2nd on the NRL ladder respectively, fought off in a potential Grand Final preview. David Gallop was attending his first game involving either club since he suspended Brett Stewart for the first four rounds of the 2009 season following a sexual assault charge for which he was later acquitted, and since he stripped the Storm of two premiership titles and three minor premiership titles for mass breaches of the salary cap in 2010.[citation needed]

In 2012, both teams fought out the preliminary final. Melbourne thrashed Manly 40-12, ending their chances of winning back to back titles.[14]

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Wests Tigers[edit]

Manly and the Wests Tigers have established a recent and spiteful rivalry in recent years.[15] This has stemmed from the rivalry between Manly and the Western Suburbs Magpies from 1947-1999, until the Magpies departed the competition to form the Wests Tigers in 2000 with the Balmain Tigers. In Round 1 of the 2010 season, the Tigers came from 20-4 down with 20 minutes remaining to win a controversial and spiteful encounter 26-22.[16] There were many moments to come out of the match: Tigers recruit Lote Tuqiri scored on his return from rugby union in just the fourth minute of the match, Manly pair Kieran Foran and Brent Kite were both booked for high tackles in the second half, Manly's George Rose was sin-binned for a high tackle on Daniel Fitzhenry and Brett Stewart suffered a season-ending knee injury whilst attempting a try-saving tackle on Tuqiri.

The return bout proved just as controversial, with the Sea Eagles claiming some revenge for its season opening defeat with a 38-20 win in front of a record crowd in Gosford. Manly accused Tigers captain Robbie Farah of diving in an incident which led to Steve Matai being reported and subsequently sin-binned (he was later cleared by the NRL Judiciary).[17]

Early in the 2011 pre-season Manly and the Tigers squared off in a one-off charity Twenty20 cricket match to raise funds for the victims of the 2010–2011 Queensland floods.[18] The Tigers, who were invited by the Sea Eagles to contest the match, accused Manly of "playing to win at all costs" and took the match less seriously than them. In their only NRL match in season 2011, the Tigers came from 12-0 down to win a close and controversial contest 14-12,[19] in which the Tigers scored a try off a blatant Robbie Farah forward pass.

North Queensland Cowboys v Wests Tigers[edit]

The rivalry between the Cowboys and Wests Tigers stems from a controversial match in 2001 when Tigers' winger John Hopoate was alleged to have poked his fingers through the anuses of three Cowboys players. Despite his claims that he was trying to give them a "wedgie" - the three players in question - Paul Bowman, Peter Jones and Glenn Morrison dismissed the claim, and Hopoate was suspended for a lengthy time by the judiciary.

Considered the fairytales of the 2004 and 2005 respectively, not a single rugby league brain would have thought that the Cowboys and Wests Tigers would meet in the Grand Final in 2005. The Cowboys were coming off their own first ever finals appearance, in 2004, whilst the Tigers were in trouble by round 15. The Tigers then strung together a record eight-game winning streak, and finished fourth at the end of the season. In the first qualifying final, these two teams would meet each other at Sydney's Telstra Stadium where the focus was hyped much on the Tigers' first ever finals appearance.

Brisbane Broncos v Melbourne Storm[edit]

Considered to be two of the biggest teams outside Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne have ignited a rivalry that still continues today. They are also notable for a wide spread of Queensland Origin players across their squads over the past six years. The two teams played six finals across six years from 2004-2009 inclusive. In 2004, the Storm claimed a 31-14 win in the second qualifying final, continuing the Broncos' finals woes. In 2005, the Storm repeated the dose in the same qualifying stage, this time claiming a 24-18 win which saw the rise of young superstar Greg Inglis who was filling in for the injured Billy Slater.

The turning point in the rivalry came in 2006 when the two teams met in the first Grand Final not to feature a New South Wales based team. Melbourne were the favourites, but the Broncos upset the Storm 15-8, winning its sixth premiership in the process. This ensured Brisbane prop Shane Webcke was sent into retirement a winner.

Again these two teams would play in the qualifying stage in 2007, but this time Melbourne finished on top of the ladder whilst an injury-ravaged Brisbane were lucky to finish eighth. The Storm won this match comfortably, 40-0. The 2008 semi-final between these two clubs was just as memorable, with Brisbane hosting the top-of-the-table Storm in a thrilling match where the Storm were in trouble for the majority of the match. Just as Brisbane was set to send Melbourne out of the finals in straight sets, the Storm, through Greg Inglis scored a try in the final minute of the match to break Brisbane's hearts and deny Wayne Bennett a win in his final match as Broncos coach. Brisbane's 2009 season was also ended abruptly by the Storm, in a 40-10 thumping at Melbourne's Etihad Stadium.

St. George Illawarra Dragons v Melbourne Storm[edit]

These two teams played in the Grand Final in 1999. It is remembered for the penalty try conceded by Dragons winger Jamie Ainscough that cost the Dragons the premiership. It was the Dragons' first NRL Grand Final appearance as a joint venture and the Storm's first Grand Final appearance in just its second year in existence. The Dragons had led 14-0 at halftime only for Melbourne to come back and claim a controversial 20-18 win following the penalty try two minutes from time.

The two teams have also had some memorable, not to mention controversial matches in the decade that followed, none more so than the Grand Final rematch in 2000 which saw the Storm annihilate the Dragons 70-10 at the MCG (this remains St George Illawarra's biggest defeat to date). In the lead up to that match, then-Dragons five-eighth Anthony Mundine had claimed that the Storm were not worthy premiers, sparking anger from the Storm's fans and players, thus the catalyst for the huge win. The Dragons however did claim revenge later that year with a 50-4 win at WIN Stadium (that also remains the Storm's worst ever defeat to date).

Melbourne won 24-16 in round 12, 2005, capping a horror weekend for both the red-and-white teams in Melbourne (the other team, the AFL's Sydney Swans, got thrashed by St Kilda the night before). In 2006, the Storm defeated St George Illawarra three times throughout the season, including a 24-10 defeat of them in the prelimiary final. This signalled the end of an era, as it was the final game of the two last remaining Illawarra Steelers first grade players at the joint venture, Trent Barrett and Shaun Timmins.

St. George Illawarra Dragons v Brisbane Broncos[edit]

St George and Brisbane Broncos contested the 1992 and 1993 Grand Finals, creating a fierce rivalry (see New South Wales Rugby League season 1993). The Illawarra Steelers also defeated the Broncos in the final of the 1992 Tooheys Challenge, following the Broncos' defeat of them in the Panasonic Cup Final of 1989. It is also noted that the Dragons had the longest winning streak against the Brisbane Broncos than any other club (eight, from round 23, 2005 to round 4, 2009 inclusive, including one final in 2006), across five years. With former Brisbane Broncos coach Wayne Bennett at the helm of St George Illawarra, and Wendell Sailor, a popular face in the NRL and a former Bronco, the rivalry only increased. In 2009, the Dragons defeated the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium early, and were then beaten in Wollongong by the Broncos later on in the season. One game a piece, the two sides met up in Brisbane in the finals, where they lost to the Broncos 24–10.

The honours were divided in 2010 with the Dragons winning 34-16 in round 5 in Darius Boyd's 100th game (73 for the Broncos and 27 for the Dragons) but the Broncos got them back 10-6 at Suncorp Stadium in round 21 with the Dragons not scoring until just before full-time.

The Dragons have been unable to beat Brisbane in the last three seasons, with the Broncos defeating them twice in 2011 (including the semi final mentioned above) and 2013, and once in season 2012.

Sydney Roosters v New Zealand Warriors[edit]

These two teams met in the 2002 NRL Grand Final which was notable for the Warriors becoming the first non-Australian team in the Australasian competition to win a minor premiership or appear in a grand final. The Warriors only won the minor premiership in the final round of the regular season, and after the Bulldogs' salary cap breach of 2002.

The Grand Final was well known for its toughness from both teams. The Warriors, through Stacey Jones built an 8-6 lead halfway through the second half, only for Roosters captain Brad Fittler to turn his side's fortunes his way with a crucial 40/20 kick which turned the match the Roosters' way. The Roosters won 30-8 to win their first premiership since 1975.

Little has emerged from the two teams since, but in recent times the Warriors appointed Ivan Cleary (who played in the Warriors' 2002 Grand Final squad, and also a former Roosters player) as its head coach, partially breaching the salary cap in doing so. The two teams had a 31-all draw in 2007 (Brad Fittler's fourth game as Roosters coach) and the Warriors claimed a golden point 17-16 victory in 2009 at Mount Smart Stadium. There was drama in 2010 when Kevin Locke scored the match winning try for the Warriors in their 20-18 win, appearing to injure himself by colliding with the goal post in scoring the try.

Penrith Panthers v Sydney Roosters[edit]

The rivalry between these two sides arise from the Roosters recruiting Brad Fittler and Phil Gould from the Panthers in an attempt to turn the Roosters' fortunes around after almost a decade out of the finals. The pair had both won a premiership with the Panthers in 1991 and were looking to do the same at the Roosters. In fact, the Roosters failed to make the Grand Final with both Fittler (who was appointed captain during his arrival at the Roosters) and Gould, only for the Roosters to get there the year after Gould quit coaching the Roosters.

The two teams met in the 2003 NRL Grand Final, where the Roosters were the defending premiers and Penrith had finished last two seasons ago. Against all odds, the Panthers upset the more experienced Roosters 18-6; a memorable moment coming midway through the second half with Panthers lock Scott Sattler tackling Roosters flyer Todd Byrne into the touchline which saved the game for the Panthers. This was Penrith's second premiership; their first coming in 1991. The Roosters heavily defeated the struggling Panthers 42-6 in 2013, while on the road to their first premiership since 2002.

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