- National Rugby League season 2004
Infobox rugby league season
year = 2004
competition = National Rugby League
imagesize = 100px
teams = 15
count = 8th
minor premiers =
mpcount = 16th
matches = 189
points = 9086
attendance = 2942231
top points scorer = (342)
top try scorer = (23)The year
2004's National Rugby Leagueseason was the 97th season of professional rugby league footballin Australia, and the seventh run by the NRL. Fifteen clubs competed for the TelstraPremiership. Eventually the Bulldogs defeated the Sydney Roostersin the grand final and in doing so claimed their eighth premiership.
The beginning of the season was largely overshadowed with several Bulldogs players questioned by police in relation to an alleged rape of a 20-year old Coffs Harbour woman. An independent investigator, former New South Wales chief of detectives, would later fail to find any evidence of misconduct on behalf of the players, and no charges were pressed.
It would not be the last unsavoury headline for rugby league in 2004, with a crowd incident at a Bulldogs-Roosters game on
March 26, whilst two New South WalesState of Origin players were stood down from the squad on May 21for unprofessional conduct.
During a match between the Broncos and the Tigers, the Broncos fielded 14 men at one stage of the
Campbelltown Stadiummatch. In the 60th minute, Brisbane's Shane Webckewas taken off the ground after being KO'd by Tiger Bryce Gibbs. In the interim, Corey Parker was brought on, with Webcke still being assisted off. Parker immediately scored off a Darren Lockyerpass and started a Broncos revival (they trailed 24-8 at halftime) which later saw them win 24-32. But, an ensuing investigation led the Broncos to be stripped of two competition points, which were reinstated weeks later.
Rounds 15-16 saw the Wests Tigers kept to zero whilst conceding over 50 points in the space of six days (Dragons 50-0, 20/6/04, Roosters 56-0, 25/6/04). They were also kept to zero by the Sydney Roosters twice in 2004, losing 22-0 in round 9 and 56-0 in round 16. An extra-ordinary scoreline was also seen in a round 25 clash between the
St George Dragonsand Manly. Trailing 34-10 after 53 minutes the Dragons came back to win the match 36-34. This match stood in second-place in the rankings of the biggest comebacks in Australian premiership history.
Several players and coaches also made the headlines for the wrong reasons.
Jamie Lyonwalked out on the Parramatta club after the first round citing burnout and dissatisfaction with living in Sydney, and would later move to the UK for a successful Europen Super Leaguecareer. Coaches Daniel Anderson and Paul Langmackwould have their contracts terminated at the New Zealand Warriorsand South Sydney Rabbitohsrespectively. Andrew Johnswas injured in Newcastle's third game of the season against Parramatta, and subsequently missed the remainder of the season. The Knights missed the finals of the NRL for the first time since 1996.
2004 was also notable for the emergence of teenage players
Sonny Bill Williams(Bulldogs) and Karmichael Hunt( Brisbane Broncos), and their performances, mature beyond their years, would be critical to the fortunes of their clubs.
All four clubs which had players sent off did not win their matches. The Sharks, Roosters, Storm and Knights all lost in rounds 4, 13, 19 and 24 respectively when they had 12 men on the field.
North Queensland Cowboysqualified for the finals for the first time in their ten-year history, and shocked everybody by finishing just one game short of the grand final. During the finals, they won their first ever game against Queensland rivals, Brisbane, thus ending the career of Broncos stalwart Gorden Tallis. Also retiring in 2004 were Brad Fittler, Ryan Girdler, Kevin Campion, Scott Sattlerand Robbie O'Davis.
¹ Game relocated to Dairy Farmers Stadium, the Cowboys' home ground, from Aussie Stadium. Cowboys designated home team despite the Broncos finishing higher on the table.
The Roosters made it to the Grand Final for the third consecutive season, however the Bulldogs ended their season of wildly fluctuating fortunes with a 16-13 win over Sydney in the last match played of superstar Brad Fittler's glittering 15-season career. Maligned for their disreputable pre-season and incidents of unseemly conduct by players and fans, the Bulldogs showed resilience and character to take out their first premiership since 1995.
The Bulldogs didn't have the title secure until the final seconds when second-rower Andrew Ryan ankle-tapped runaway Rooster Michael Crocker in a match-winning play. Ryan took over the captaincy from departing prop Steve Price who was ruled out days before the decider after tearing his medial ligament the week before.
It was the Roosters' second consecutive grand final loss.
Bulldogs 16 (Tries: Utai 2, El Masri. Goals: El Masri 2)
Sydney Roosters 13 (Tries: Walker, Minichello. Goals: Fitzgibbon 2. Fld Goal: Finch)
Clive Churchill Medallist: Willie Mason
National Rugby League
2004 NRL Finals Series
Brisbane Broncos 2004
* [http://www.nrl.com NRL official website]
* [http://www.sportsphotography.net/rugbyleague/2004/gf/index.html 2004 NRL Grand Final at sportsphotography.net]
ources and Footnotes
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