1969 – Balmain def South Sydney Rabbitohs 11-2
Given next-to-no chance against a South Sydney side stacked with 11 internationals, Balmain sprung one of the greatest grand final upsets ever at the Sydney Cricket Ground. With gamesmanship perhaps ahead of its time, the young Tigers feigned injury to halt opposition momentum. It worked a treat as they held Souths to a solitary penalty goal. It was a perfect farewell for retiring captain Peter Provan and Balmain’s last premiership before a merger with Western Suburbs in 1999.
1989 – Canberra Raiders def Balmain 19-14
One of the greatest grand finals of all time, Canberra’s inaugural premiership was the first won by an out-of-Sydney team. The Raiders trailed 12-2 at halftime against a Balmain pack featuring internationals Steve Roach, Ben Elias, Paul Sironen and Wayne Pearce but rallied to send the match into extra-time. Second rower Steve Jackson then carried defenders over the line for the match-winner. Coached by Tim Sheens, Canberra became the first team to take out the premiership from fourth place.
1997 – Newcastle Knights def Manly Sea Eagles 22-16
When flying winger Darren Albert scored seven seconds from fulltime, the premiership trophy headed to Newcastle for the first time. Sitting in first place from round four on, Manly had beaten the Knights twice during the season and started overwhelming favourites. Under skipper Geoff Toovey, they led 16-8 at the break but were run down. Australia fullback Robbie O’Davis levelled the scores inside the final 10 minutes before Albert scored the match-winner.
1999 – Melbourne Storm def St. George Illawarra Dragons 20-18
The Storm were trounced 34-10 by the Dragons in the opening week of the finals but rebounded three weeks later to clinch a dramatic maiden title. Melbourne were 18-14 behind inside the final three minutes when Dragons’ winger Jamie .Ainscough caught Craig Smith in a high tackle forcing him to lose the ball over the line. Referee Bill Harrigan awarded a controversial penalty try, with Matt Geyer’s ensuing kick from in front sealing a controversial win.
2003 – Penrith Panthers def Sydney Roosters 18-6
Wooden spooners two years prior, the ‘Mountain Men’ toppled their Eastern Suburbs rivals in a performance best remembered for Panthers forward Scott Sattler’s famous cover tackle on Roosters winger Todd Byrne. Despite winning the minor premiership, Penrith started as outsiders against a Roosters side with the second best defence in the league. With the scores tied at 6-6 early in the second half, Sattler chased down Byrne. From there, Penrith’s line wasn’t breached. Hooker Luke Priddis, the only Panther with previous grand final experience, claimed the Clive Churchill Medal.