September. The business end of the football season.
It’s the month every team has one eye on, throughout the whole year, hoping to etch their name into history at its conclusion. And of course, that’s the case in both the NRL and also the NRLW.
We’ve run through the best five NRL Grand Finals of the modern era. Now it’s time to give the Women’s comp the same treatment, even if there’s less history to draw from.
We’ll see more unforgettable NRLW Grand Final moments with the benefit of time. And there’s no doubt’s the comp’s come in leaps and bounds since its inception in 2018, when just five teams competed over three rounds of football for their shot at Premiership glory.
Fast forward five years and there is double the number of teams and triple the number of rounds, attracting thousands of fans towards the growing women’s game. And it’s only just getting started.
With Grand Final week coming around again, we’ve run the rule over the best deciders we’ve seen so far.
There’s no doubt that this story will make for good reading if you’re a fan of the Broncos, Roosters or Knights.
The best NRLW Grand Finals: Top 5
5. Brisbane Broncos v Sydney Roosters, 2018
Broncos def. Roosters, 34-12
It’s a flip of the coin between the competition’s first and second deciders for which one ranks fifth on our list. While the opponent was different, the reality is a dominant, experienced Brisbane side were practically untouched on their way to glory. Aside from a 10th minute Roosters try to back-rower Tazmin Gray, which held the score briefly at 6-4, the Bondi girls barely threatened the Broncos.
September 30, 2018 was the first, but not the last, time these two sides would meet on the biggest stage. They were to become the competition’s benchmark sides in coming years.
4. Brisbane Broncos v St George-Illawarra, 2019
Broncos def. Dragons, 30-6
Who doesn’t love a Grand Final carve up? A Broncos side featuring Ali Brigginshaw, Raecene McGregogor and Millie Boyle took on an exciting Dragons side featuring future stars Kezie Apps and Jessica Sergis in the competition’s second ever decider.
Brisbane ran away convincing winners, as St George-Illawarra’s only try came through their captain, Kezie Apps, with 10 minutes to go.
3. Newcastle Knights v Parramatta Eels, 2022
Knights def. Eels, 32-12
In a repeat of the 2001 Men’s NRL Grand Final, which also saw the Knights claim victory over the Eels at Accor Stadium (then Stadium Australia), the girls from the Steel City put on a clinic for fans in last year’s big dance. With serial winners Millie Boyle (268 metres from 29 carries) and Tamika Upton (2 line breaks and a try) in key positions and star halfback, Jesse Southwell, putting in huge shifts against a tough, resilient Eels outfit.
For the third premiership in Knights’ history, it was only fitting the player donning the number 7 stole the show. Southwell finished the game with a try, a try assist, a line break, a line break assist and 232 kick metres, as the Knights barely gave Parramatta a sniff following an early Eels try to hooker Brooke Anderson. What promised to be Parramatta’s most exciting September in a decade ended in despair for Eels fans as both their men’s and women’s sides tasted dominant defeats.
2. Brisbane Broncos v Sydney Roosters, 2020
Broncos def. Roosters, 20-10
Another COVID-interrupted season, and another great showcase of the talent in the NRLW. In a repeat of the competition’s inaugural GF, Brisbane was vying for a three-peat and after two early tries to fullback Tamika Upton and Amber Hall planted them firmly in the driver’s seat.
The Roosters showcased some of their Bondi resilience, hitting back with two successive tries to ensure both sides headed to sheds for half-time locked in a 12-10 arm wrestle. But Brisbane’s experience came to the fore in the second half as they ran away with their third consecutive NRLW title.
1. Sydney Roosters v St George-Illawarra, 2021
Roosters def. Dragons, 16-4
Played on Redcliffe in Queensland during the COVID-interrupted season, this game had everything a Grand Final needs; an early win, some tight refereeing calls, and a comeback for the ages. Dragon’s winger, Madison Bartlett, scored off a scrum inside the first minute, giving Jamie Soward’s girls the whiff of potential Premiership success.
But, after seeing a second Dragons try chalked off by the bunker after eights minute, the Sydney Roosters clawed their way back into the match with a trio of tries from Yasmin Meakes, Isabelle Kelly and Olivia Higgins, giving the side from Sydney’s east their first Grand Final win at the third attempt.