2003 NRL Grand Final
|2003NRL Grand Final|
|Date||5 October 2003|
|Clive Churchill Medal||Luke Priddis, (PEN)|
|National anthem||Troy Cassar-Daley|
The 2003 NRL Grand Final was the conclusive and premiership-deciding match of the 2003 NRL season. In what was a contest of Sydney's east versus west, defending premiers the Sydney Roosters played against minor premiers the Penrith Panthers. The first grand final since 1996 to feature two Sydney-based teams was played on the night of Sunday, 5 October at Stadium Australia in the inner western suburb of Sydney Olympic Park. Domestically, live free-to-air television coverage was provided by Nine's Wide World of Sports. The match was also broadcast live in the United States by Fox Soccer.
The 2003 NRL season was the 96th season of professional rugby league football in Australia and the sixth run by the National Rugby League. Fifteen teams (14 from Australia and 1 from New Zealand) competed for the Telstra Premiership, with the top eight teams entering a play-off finals series to determine the grand finalists.
The Roosters were seen as favourites. Of all the Panthers players, only Luke Priddis had grand final experience, having defeated the Roosters with the Broncos in the 2000 NRL season's decider. It was Scott Sattler's last game with Penrith, having signed with the Wests Tigers for the following season.
|Penrith Panthers||Position||Sydney Roosters|
|1 Rhys Wesser||FB||1 Anthony Minichiello|
|2 Luke Lewis||WG||2 Todd Byrne|
|3 Paul Whatuira||CE||3 Ryan Cross|
|4 Ryan Girdler||CE||4 Shannon Hegarty|
|5 Luke Rooney||WG||5 Chris Walker|
|6 Preston Campbell||5/8th||6 Brad Fittler (c)|
|7 Craig Gower (c)||HB||9 Craig Wing|
|8 Joel Clinton||PR||8 Jason Cayless|
|9 Luke Priddis||HK||14 Michael Crocker|
|10 Martin Lang||PR||10 Ned Catic|
|11 Joe Galuvao||SR||11 Adrian Morley|
|12 Tony Puletua||SR||12 Craig Fitzgibbon|
|13 Scott Sattler||LF||13 Luke Ricketson|
|14 Ben Ross||Int.||7 Brett Finch|
|15 Trent Waterhouse||Int.||15 Andrew Lomu|
|16 Shane Rodney||Int.||16 Chad Robinson|
|17 Luke Swain||Int.||17 Chris Flannery|
|John Lang||Coach||Ricky Stuart|
81,166 spectators turned out at Telstra Stadium for the game. Pre-match entertainment featured performances by Meat Loaf, the Hoodoo Gurus and American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson. Troy Cassar-Daley then sung the Australian national anthem just before Bill Harrigan, refereeing his 7th consecutive grand final and 10th overall, blew time on and the Roosters kicked off.
Rain started falling only a few minutes into the match and continued throughout. After thirty minutes of play, the Roosters' defence was the first to give when Penrith hooker Luke Priddis, still within his team's side of the field, ran from dummy-half and into open space, finally passing to winger Luke Rooney coming through in support to cross untouched on the left for the opening try. Ryan Girdler kicked the conversion so the Panthers were leading 6–0. No more points were scored for the rest of the half so this remained the score at the break.
In the eighth minute, and after repeat sets of six had brought the Roosters close to Penrith's try-line, forward Jason Cayless crossed it beneath the uprights, but the ball was held up by the defence. On the very next play, the ball went through the hands out to Shannon Hegarty to score on the left hand side of the field. Craig Fitzgibbon's conversion, which bounced through off an upright, evened the scores at 6–6. Eight minutes later Sydney winger Todd Byrne received the ball on his own forty-metre line and ran into open space along the left edge of the field. Panthers lock forward Scott Sattler was chasing and twenty metres from the try-line tackled Byrne, pulling him out of the field in what would become one of the most famous plays in grand final history. In the sixty-sixth minute the Panthers had made their way up to within five metres of the Roosters' try line where Luke Priddis again ran from dummy-half and scored, stretching out of the tackle to touch down beside the uprights. Preston Campbell kicked the extra two points so Penrith were now leading 12–6. In the seventy-third minute, Panthers halfback Craig Gower attempted a field goal but it was charged down. Penrith re-gathered the ball and continued towards the Roosters line and four tackles later had reached perfect field-goal kicking position. Priddis, at dummy-half again, instead decided to dummy and run left, throwing a long cut-out pass to Rooney on the wing to score untouched in the corner. Campbell converted the try and the Panthers lead 18–6 with six minutes left to play, but no further points ensued so this remained the score at full-time.
|Penrith Panthers 18||Sydney Roosters 6|
Luke Rooney (2)
Preston Campbell (2/2)
Ryan Girdler (1/1)
Luke Priddis was awarded the Clive Churchill Medal as man-of-the-match before the Prime Minister of Australia John Howard presented Panthers captain Craig Gower with the premiership trophy. At the Penrith Leagues club approximately 10,000 people celebrated the victory with the Panthers. The grand final attracted a bigger audience in Melbourne than the AFL grand final did in Sydney the previous weekend.
Four members of Penrith's premiership winning team have subsequently played in other premiership teams – Paul Whatuira was part of the Wests Tigers team that triumphed just two years later in 2005, Joe Galuvao and Shane Rodney won a second premiership together as part of the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles team that won in 2011, and Luke Lewis was part of the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks team that won their first premiership in 2016.
World Club Challenge
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