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My favourite rugby league underdogs of all time

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Roar Rookie
22nd May, 2020

I love sport. I have favourite teams, of course, but what excites me most is the underdog story, even if it doesn’t always end in glory.

The list below is made up of my favourite underdog rugby league teams that captured our attention and hearts.

1988 Balmain Tigers
They finished equal fifth (seventh on the table) but beat the Penrith Panthers in a playoff for fifth spot. They then made it to through to the grand final, only to lose to the Canterbury Bulldogs.

Benny Elias

(Photo by Getty Images)

1996 St George Dragons
They were a depleted team due to the Super League war. But with a young Anthony Mundine, they made it to the grand final, but lost to the Manly Sea Eagles. Special mention to winger Mark Bell and his tries in the corners from bombs.

1997 Newcastle Knights
They beat the Manly Sea Eagles for their first title. Enough said.

1999 St George Illawarra Dragons
They lost to the Melbourne Storm in the grand final but had a great run from sixth spot.


2001 Newcastle Knights
They smoked the highly favoured Parramatta Eels in the grand final. They led 24-0 at halftime.

2003 Penrith Panthers
They beat the fancied Sydney Roosters and who could forget Scott Sattler’s try-saving tackle on Todd Byrne down the sideline?

2015 North Queensland Cowboys
They beat the Brisbane Broncos in extra time. There was the Johnathan Thurston sideline conversion miss and then the ultimate triumph with the winning field goal. It was arguably the greatest grand final in rugby league history, along with the Canberra Raiders versus Balmain Tigers in 1989 and the Newcastle Knights versus Manly Sea Eagles in 1997.