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Warriors beating Storm voted biggest finals shock of modern era

The Warriors' surprise win over the Storm on the opening weekend of the 2008 playoffs has been voted the biggest finals upset of the modern era.

The match marked the first time since the 1999 introduction of the McIntyre finals system that the eight-ranked team beat the minor premiers.

Michael Witt's celebration prior to putting the ball down struck a chord with voters.

That match scored a narrow win over the Cowboys' win over the Roosters in 2017 preliminary final.

North Queensland's improbable finals run that year didn't end with a premiership but the win over the Roosters remains one to savour.

The other match to attract a strong response was Newcastle's 2001 grand final win over a Parramatta side that was heavily favoured heading into the decider.

What's the biggest upset in finals footy?

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Biggest upset in finals

(in chronological order)

1995 grand final Canterbury beat Manly

Winning three sudden-death matches just to make the grand final wasn’t enough for this Bulldogs team, they then went on and shocked the red-hot favourites 17-4 in the decider.

Built on the back of resolute defence (they allowed just 28 points in four finals games), captain Terry Lamb and Clive Churchill Medallist Jim Dymock set up the win.

The Super League-forced switch of Jarrod McCracken, Dean Pay, Jim Dymock and Jason Smith to Canterbury that year didn’t hurt the Dogs’ chances.

Terry Lamb lifts the Winfield Cup after Canterbury won the 1995 grand final.
Terry Lamb lifts the Winfield Cup after Canterbury won the 1995 grand final.

1997 ARL grand final Newcastle beat Manly

Regarded by many as the game that saved rugby leagye after the division and drama of the Super League war, Newcastle and Manly turned on one of the all-time grand finals.

The Sea Eagles were playing in their third straight decider and had beaten the Knights in their previous 11 clashes but with the entire city of Newcastle behind them, Paul Harragon’s men fought back from a 16-10 deficit with seven minutes remaining to complete a fairytale premiership.

A try to Robbie O’Davis drew the Knights level before a piece of Andrew Johns magic with 19 seconds to play opened up a hole for Darren Albert to surge through and score the match-winner, kick-starting a party which would last for weeks in the Hunter.

Paul Harragon and Andrew Johns celebrate the Knights' first premiership.
Paul Harragon and Andrew Johns celebrate the Knights' first premiership.

1998 preliminary final Canterbury beat Parramatta

Of the 20 teams who took part in the 1998 premiership no less than 10 of them made the finals - and Canterbury finished ninth.

After taking care of St George in the qualifying finals and Norths in the quarter-finals they then came from 16 points down to beat Newcastle in the semi-final to set up a preliminary final clash with Parramatta, who had finished the regular season in fourth spot.

The fairytale run looked to be coming to an end when Darren Britt's men trailed 18-2 with 11 minutes to go but they climbed off the canvas to draw level by full-time and send the game into extra-time.

Craig Polla-Mounter played out of his skin and Daryl Halligan landed goals from everywhere as Canterbury upset the Eels to become the lowest placed team ever to make the grand final.

1999 preliminary final Dragons beat Sharks

The Sharks were minor premiers heading into the preliminary final and things were looking good when they led 8-0 at the break.

Anthony Mundine then turned in a brilliant second half, scoring three tries to lead the Dragons to a 24-8 win. Who doesn’t remember those joyous backflips he and Nathan Blacklock turned on?

All that from a team that entered the finals in sixth place. Sadly for the Dragons, things turned sour in the grand final.

As for the Sharks, they had to wait until 2016 to win their first premiership.

Anthony Mundine and Nathan Blacklock.
Anthony Mundine and Nathan Blacklock.

2001 grand final Knights beat Eels

Minor premiers Parramatta broke all sorts of records in a dominant 2001 campaign but when push came to shove on grand final night they succumbed to a case of stage fright and an Andrew Johns masterclass.

With Ben Kennedy and Bill Peden running wide and running amok the Knights got the jump early and never looked back.

By the half-time break it was all over at 24-0 and the Knights had one hand on a second premiership in five years.

Even though the Knights had finished third in the regular season they entered the first ever night grand final as massive underdogs but they produced a first-half ambush which very few saw coming – especially the Eels.

Andrew Johns tormented the Eels in the 2001 decider.
Andrew Johns tormented the Eels in the 2001 decider. ©NRL Photos

2004 qualifying final Cowboys beat Bulldogs

Maroons and Australia regular Matt Sing bagged a hat-trick of tries as the seventh-ranked Cowboys shocked the Bulldogs in the opening weekend of the 2004 finals.

Canterbury, who finished the year in second place, were second best all night. Canterbury rebounded in brilliant fashion by going on to win the grand final.

As well as beating Canterbury on this night, 2004 marked the year the Cowboys were able to lure a talented youngster by the name of Johnathan Thurston away from Belmore.

2005 preliminary final Cowboys beat Eels

A day after the Benji Marshall-inspired Wests Tigers had sprung a minor upset by beating the Dragons to book the first spot in the big dance the Cowboys produced a massive upset by taking down minor premiers Parramatta at ANZ Stadium.

Not only did the Cowboys win but they walloped the star-studded Eels 29-0 to set up a fairytale grand final between two sides in their first decider.

With their star recruit Johnathan Thurston leading the charge the Cowboys took the ascendancy just before half-time when Rod Jensen powered over from close range and Brett Firman scored soon after to turn up the heat on the highly fancied Eels.

The mercurial Matt Bowen scored one of the Cowboys' five tries in the whitewash of Parramatta.
The mercurial Matt Bowen scored one of the Cowboys' five tries in the whitewash of Parramatta.

2008 qualifying final Warriors beat Storm

Who could ever forget Michael Witt flirting with danger by holding the aloft before hurriedly grounding it to secure a momentous win by the eighth-placed Warriors over minor premiers Melbourne.

It was the first time since the McIntyre Finals System had been introduced in 1999 that the team that scraped into the play-offs in eighth had knocked off the side that came first.

Greg Inglis had given the Storm a 15-14 lead with a field goal 12 minutes from full-time but the Warriors launched one last raid two minutes from full-time and Witt finished off a 75-metre movement to snatch an unlikely win.

The Hayne Plane in full flight.
The Hayne Plane in full flight.

2009 qualifying final Eels beat Dragons

Rarely has a player produced a hot streak like Jarryd Hayne turned on for the Eels in the second half of 2009.

Languishing in 14th spot after 18 rounds the Eels peeled off seven wins in a row to surge into finals contention on the back of Hayne’s speed, footwork, power and sheer presence.

A 37-0 loss to the Dragons in round 26 seemed to spell the end of the charge but a week later Hayne ran rings around the Red V as the eighth-placed Eels took revenge on the minor premiers at Kogarah, a 25-12 win setting them on a course for a grand final berth.

The Cowboys stunned the Roosters in 2017.
The Cowboys stunned the Roosters in 2017.

2017 preliminary final Cowboys beat Roosters

The improbable run of the Cowboys – minus star man Johnathan Thurston – continued with a stunning 29-16 win over the Roosters. The win booked a spot in the grand final.

The Roosters led 16-14 with 15 minutes remaining but were swamped in the final stages.

The Cowboys only scored one more try than the Roosters, but six goals from Ethan Lowe proved decisive. The Storm then scored a crushing 34-6 win over the Cinderella Cowboys in the grand final.

Acknowledgement of Country

The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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