It’s been a big ten years for the NRL. The careers of some of the greatest players to ever pull on the boots have ended, while two teams have separated themselves from the rest as the most successful in the NRL-era. In this NRL decade review, we’ll take a look at all of them, as well as some of the biggest moments from the past ten years.
Who were the best teams in the NRL over the past ten years?
This question is a race in two, with the Sydney Roosters and the Melbourne Storm having taken home six of the ten Premierships between 2011 and 2020. The Storm began that period having to bounce back after being unceremoniously banished to the bottom of the ladder for the entirety of the 2010 season due to systematic salary cap breaches, but they did it in style, making a Preliminary Final in 2011 before going on to win Premierships in 2012, 2017 and 2020.
The Roosters were the only other side to win multiple Provan-Summons Trophies during this period. The club won its second NRL Premiership in 2013, before going on to win back-to-back in two dominant years in 2018 and 2019. Three Grand Final wins in the space of ten years is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but given the Storm also made two other Grand Finals, three more Preliminary Finals, and never finished lower than sixth during this period, they get the nod as not just the best team in the NRL over the past ten years, but as one of the best ever.
Who was the best NRL player over the last decade?
Unsurprisingly the aforementioned two sides were home to plenty of fantastic players over the past ten years. Cameron Smith is the obvious one, with the Storm hooker captaining his side to two Premierships, winning a third and becoming the NRL games record-holder during the course of the decade.
Smith’s Premiership winning teammate Cooper Cronk is another, and for the past ten years wherever he has gone success has followed. After winning in 2012 and 2017 with the Storm, Cronk moved to the Roosters and promptly won again in 2018 and 2019 before hanging up the boots. He was also twice awarded the Dally M Player of the Year Award during this time — in 2013 and 2016 – and won the Golden Boot award as the world’s best rugby league player in 2016.
Rounding out this list is perhaps the best of them all, Johnathan Thurston. Thurston ended his career as one of the best to ever play the game in 2018, and you could write a book exclusively on the accolades he collected throughout it. Over the past decade, he won the Dally M Medal on two occasions (having also won in 2005 and 2007), became the first-ever three-time winner of the Golden Boot, and led his North Queensland Cowboys to their inaugural Premiership in 2015.
What were the biggest moments?
The aforementioned 2015 Grand Final saw one of the best ends to a season in recent memory, with Jonathan Thurston hitting the post on a conversion attempt which would have won his side the game in the dying stages. The game subsequently went to the golden point, where he quickly redeemed himself with a Premiership-winning field goal.
The next year was just as exciting, albeit for different reasons. The game itself was one-sided, but the Cronulla Sharks’ victory was an incredible comeback from the peptide scandal two years prior which saw them resigned to the wooden spoon and twelve players given backdated one-year suspensions.
Now well into the NRL 2021 grand final, and a new crop of talent is forging its path in the league, while the likes of the Panthers and the Rabbitohs are trying to knock the Storm off their proverbial throne. It’s been a big ten years in the NRL, but hopefully, the next decade will be just as good as the last.
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