Against all odds: The 2003 Penrith Panthers

21 Jul 20, 2:15PM 0 Comments

Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk

Photo by Getty Images

In 2001, the Penrith Panthers finished last on the NRL ladder and in 2002 would end the season in 12th.

The following year would be shockingly different, as after not even making the finals for three years the Panthers would win the minor premiership and go on to win the 2003 NRL Grand Final.

Although they remained consistent throughout the regular season, no one truly believed the Panthers were anything more then pretenders, with most punters either tipping the Roosters or Bulldogs to win the premiership.

Come preliminary finals time the Roosters faced off against the Bulldogs in a game many believed was the “Grand Final a week early” as the winner of this one was expected to make easy work of the Panthers or Warriors the following week.

The Roosters would win this so called “Grand Final” 28-18, with the Panthers taking down the Warriors 28-20.

In the week leading up to the 2003 Grand Final the Roosters were the heavy favourites as expected and understandably so.

Their captain and former premiership winner with the Panthers Brad Fittler was still one of, if not the best player in the NRL, and the tri colours had plenty of big game experience, winning the competition in 2002.

Penrith on the other hand only had one player in their side that had ever played in a Grand Final before in Luke Priddis, with a number of Panthers players only participating in their first finals series in 2003.

They would defeat the Roosters 18-6 in front of 81,166 at Telstra (ANZ) Stadium and Priddis would claim the Clive Churchill Medal, scoring a try and setting up the other two his side scored.

Luke Priddis scoring a try in the 2003 Grand Final

The many doubters were left startled after the team who had won the wooden spoon two years before were lifting the Telstra Premiership trophy instead of the Roosters or Bulldogs and did so against all odds.

We fast forward 17 years and the Panthers currently find themselves atop the NRL ladder halfway through the 2020 season, with halfback Nathan Cleary having taken his game to another level as did Craig Gower back in 2003.

The Roosters are also the defending champions and are favourites to win the title again this year.

Will history repeat itself for Penrith in 2020?

We’ll have to wait and see.

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