With the incredible and unlikely win by Leicester City in the English Premier League, many are calling this the biggest underdog story in sporting history. Twelve months ago they were in danger of being relegated to the second tier of English football but now are being crowned champions.
While this may be the most incredible finish in sport, in the National Rugby League (NRL) there have been some unlikely winners, remarkable finishes and players bowling out a winner on the big stage. This article looks at five of those best moments in the NRL Era:
1. Wests Tigers (2005)
I should premise this entry with the fact that I am a Wests Tigers supporter. Back in 2005, the Tigers were only five years into their joint-venture existence and had been mediocre in the previous years. They had never qualified for a final series and were relatively inexperienced with the team filled mostly with junior products, around some experienced players such as Brett Hodgson and Paul Whatuira.
With the finals series fast approaching, they looked destined for another year of disappointment. But a club record of eight consecutive wins got them to fourth at the end of the season where they would go on to beat the North Queensland Cowboys, Brisbane Broncos and St George Illawarra Dragons in the finals before defeating the Cowboys 30-16 in the Grand Final to cap a remarkable season.
2. Penrith Panthers (2003)
Two years before the Tigers had an unlikely rise to the premiership, the Penrith Panthers did pretty much the exact same thing.
Unlike the Tigers, they were consistent all season and even managed to finish first at the end of the regular season thanks to four straight wins in the last four rounds.
While a lot was made of their star youngsters like Luke Lewis and Luke Rooney, it was a veteran who created a lasting image in the Grand Final when Scott Sattler chased down winger Todd Byrne and took him over the sideline, ultimately helping his team to the premiership.
3. Shane Webcke (2006)
Shane Webcke was arguably one of the toughest rugby league players ever to lace up a pair of boots. Not necessarily the biggest or the strongest, he made up for it with heart and pure determination.
After an illustrious career that included 21 games for Queensland and 24 games for Australia, in 2006 he decided that the season would be his last. As the weeks moved on it became a tour of lasts for the prop forward including playing at Suncorp Stadium for the last time in a qualifying final in the first round of the finals.
However, come the Grand Final, after a come from behind victory against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, they met a red-hot Melbourne Storm side but Webcke and the
Broncos would not be denied as the legend would get his fairytale finish.
4. Steve Menzies (2008)
349 games. 180 tries. Looking at those stats you would expect it to be from a fullback but that is not the case. Steve Menzies was an edge backrower who floated in the backline when needed. He was hugely popular among the Manly fans and even fans from around the rest of the teams.
In 2008, he made the decision to move to England to continue his career and this cued the run of Manly making yet another finals series before meeting the Melbourne Storm in the grand final. 12 months earlier, the two teams met in the Grand Final with Melbourne getting the win but on this occasion Manly dominated with a 40-0 victory which included, of course, a Steve Menzies try.
5. Brett Finch (2006)
In 2006, the Blues were the reigning State of Origin champions. This series would, of course, change State of Origin forever as it led to Queensland’s dominance – but in game one that was not the case.
First-choice halfback Craig Gower went down injured less than 24 hours before the game. When the call was made to future immortal Andrew Johns, he rejected their advances meaning the call was made to a player who six weeks earlier couldn’t even make his club side.
But fate has a funny way of working and up stepped Finch with the scores locked at 16-16 to slot a field goal with two minutes on the clock to give the Blues a 1-0 lead in the series.
Have I missed any great finishes in the NRL? Let me know in the comments or debate with me on Twitter @JakeBull93!