The best NRL team of the past 20 years: part four
Welcome to the fourth instalment of this series, where we find the best NRL team of the past 20 years.
The 1993 Brisbane Broncos have taken the title of the greatest side of the 1990s and we’ve already eliminated the 2005 Wests Tigers and the 2004 Canterbury Bulldogs from the race to find the greatest side of the new millennium.
We start part four with a battle between the 2003 Penrith Panthers the 2008 Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles.
Under coach John Lang, the Panthers meteoric rise was complete with a victory over the Sydney Roosters on a rainy October night in ’03. Penrith were the champions of the rugby league world.
With Craig Gower and Preston Campbell leading an exuberant group of youngsters, the Panthers were a silky team with plenty of attacking options.
Rhys Wesser and Ryan Girdler added a touch of a class and their forward pack never took a backward step. The worlds aligned on that fateful night for the Mountain Men.
But they come up against a mighty Manly side that destroyed the Melbourne Storm 40-0 in the 2008 decider.
Matt Orford was at the peak of his powers and had options right across the park.
Whether it be the Stewart brothers, Jamie Lyon or Steve Menzies from the bench. The Eagles were in a class of their own.
Eagles win this one 22-12.
The 2001 Newcastle Knights come up against the 2006 Brisbane Broncos in the next contest with legends Andrew Johns and Darren Lockyer facing off.
Brisbane were a big physical side but may have struggled with the Knights’ speed and Johns’ ability to give the likes of Matt Gidley and Steve Simpson plenty of chances on the edge of the ruck.
The Broncos might have struggled with the speed of the game and for this reason (and Johns) I’m going to go with the Knights by 24-16.
Our final fantasy clash is between two impressive outfits in the 2002 Sydney Roosters and the 2011 Sea Eagles.
Both sides prided themselves on brutal defensive lines, intimidation and the ability to bully sides out of contests.
This match could quite possibly come down to one clutch play and that is where Brad Fittler comes into the game.
It only takes one point and Fittler’s boot gets the Roosters through 13-12.
2010 Dragons v 2005 Tigers (16-14)
2000 Broncos v 2004 Bulldogs (23-16)
2008 Eagles v 2003 Panthers (22-12)
2001 Knights v 2006 Broncos (24-16)
2002 Roosters v 2011 Eagles (13-12)
New Millennium’s Best:
1. Eagles 2008
2. Roosters 2002
3. Broncos 2000
4. Dragons 2010
5. Knights 2001
6. Bulldogs 2004
7. Eagles 2011
8. Panthers 2003
9. Tigers 2005
10. Broncos 2006
Part five will see a special fantasy match report between the 1993 Brisbane Broncos and the 2008 Manly Sea Eagles to find the greatest rugby league side of the last 20 years. Stay tuned!
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