Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
It’s safe to say that 2020 will be remembered as one of the most unique years in history. The world faced major changes, with Rugby League being no exception.
Today we will be taking a look back at the top five moments from the 2020 NRL season in no particular order.
When the world shutdown in mid-March the National Rugby League followed suit.
After just two rounds of the 2020 season, the competition was suspended for what turned out to be over two months; however, unlike several codes around the world, the NRL was quick to act and find a way to restart play, with Peter V’Landys and his “Project Apollo” team bringing the NRL back on the 28th of May.
Project Apollo resulted in the NRL being the first professional sporting code to resume their season in Australia.
THE FANS RETURN
One of the conditions the NRL needed to abide by when returning to play in late-May was not having any fans in attendance at games.
This would only last for a few weeks, as by the halfway point of the season we did see fans return in a limited capacity. Although, by the end of the year, a full crowd was permitted for Origin III at Suncorp Stadium.
At the time writing, all New South Wales and Queensland based clubs will have the ability to host games at full capacity in 2021.
THE STORM AND WARRIORS SACRIFICE
Both the Melbourne Storm and New Zealand Warriors made great sacrifices in 2020 so that they could compete this season.
While the NRL confirmed the 2020 season could still go ahead without the Warriors if need be, the Warriors may not have been able to survive if they had dropped out of the competition.
The stakes were very high for the team across the Tasman, and their players understood this when they decided to relocate to Tamworth and then the Central Coast for the year, leaving their loved ones back home for over four months to complete the season.
In late June, further restrictions in Victoria forced the Melbourne Storm to make a sudden move up north to the Sunshine Coast, meaning the players and staff were given little notice before agreeing to leave their homes and for many their loved ones for a prolonged period.
PENRITH’S RETURN TO THE GRAND FINAL
History was also made on the field in 2020, as the Penrith Panthers would tie the record for the most consecutive wins in a single season since the beginning of the NRL era, winning 17 straight games and qualifying for their first Grand Final in 17 years.
While the Panthers were unable to go all the way this year, they still produced one of the most dominant seasons in NRL history, during a time where fans were crying out for an alternative to the Storm or Roosters at the top of the league.
Penrith’s outstanding 2020 also saw Nathan Cleary emerge as a bonafide superstar.
QUEENSLAND’S UNDERDOG SERIES WIN
Not quite “Fatty’s Nevilles,” but not too far off it either.
The 2020 Queensland State of Origin squad was touted by many as “the worst Queensland side in the history of State of Origin.”
A tight win over the Blues in Origin I had some changing their tune; however, Queensland would be on the receiving end of a thrashing in game II which had the masses doubting the Maroons’ credentials once again.
Game III in Brisbane would provide us with a courageous effort from both sides, ending in a Queensland victory and one of the biggest upsets in State of Origin history.
It’s safe to say plenty of pundits were left with egg on their face after this one.
Now it’s about time we put 2020 behind us and look towards 2021, which will hopefully bring us a fantastic year of Rugby League with full stadiums and no mid-year interruptions!