|2003 National Rugby League|
|Premiers||Penrith (2nd title)|
|Minor premiers||Penrith (2nd title)|
|Top points scorer(s)||Hazem El Masri (294)|
|Top try-scorer(s)||Rhys Wesser (25)|
The 2003 NRL premiership was the 96th season of professional rugby league football in Australia and the sixth run by the National Rugby League. Fifteen teams competed, with the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles returning in place of their failed joint-venture club, the Northern Eagles. Ultimately, the Penrith Panthers defeated reigning champions, the Sydney Roosters in the 2003 NRL grand final, claiming their first premiership since 1991.
Season 2003 brought in the new "golden point" extra time rule, where after 80 minutes, if the game was drawn, then 10 minutes of extra time was played until one team scored the winning point(s). The salary cap for the 2003 season was A$3.25 million per club for their 25 highest-paid players.
The first round of the Premiership improved on the previous year's in terms of attendance and television ratings. The major story this season was the resurgence of the Penrith Panthers, who defied the critics and naysayers to win their second premiership in their illustrious history since joining the competition in 1967. Coached by John Lang and captained by Craig Gower, the Panthers were the surprise minor premiers, dominating the competition despite consistent disparagement from many sources, and would continue their outstanding form in the finals, beating the Broncos, Warriors and finally the Roosters in the grand final.
The Dally M Medal ceremony was cancelled by the NRL after negotiations with the players' union, the Rugby League Professionals Association, stalled. All votes for the award were destroyed. It was later revealed that with one round of the regular season to play, Craig Gower was leading both Brad Fittler and Clinton Schifcofske by one point in the overall points tally. However, with the ceremony officially cancelled more than a week out from the awards, no points were allocated in the final round of the season.
Also at the end of the season, a squad of players from the NRL premiership went on the 2003 Kangaroo tour.
The lineup of fifteen teams for the 2003 premiership remained unchanged from the previous season, except that the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles rejoined the competition since their merger with North Sydney Bears in 1999, taking the place of the failed Northern Eagles. This ended North Sydney's representation in the League.
In 2003 the NRL sacked their advertising agency of the previous two years, Saatchi & Saatchi Sydney, and took the unusual step of coming up with their own in-house creative concept. Former Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks player and then current Parramatta Eels assistant coach Alan Wilson hit upon the idea of using the Hoodoo Gurus' 1987 hit "What's My Scene?" with reworked lyrics as "That's My Team".
"and another thing, I'm discovering lately, I'm a bit crazy, for my rugby league team "
Wilson is a friend of Hoodoo Gurus singer Dave Faulkner and made the necessary arrangements which included re-uniting the band to re-record the track. Faulkner is a long-time supporter of the Sharks and the original film clip of "What's My Scene?" had included shots of band members in Wests and Cronulla-Sutherland jumpers.
The ad focuses on the grass roots supporters at all levels of the game and in its finished version includes shots of fans from the Cessnock Goannas, a proud Bulldogs supporter and a Penrith teenager with a broken leg signed by her heroes. These images are included with the usual fare of pre-season team training images, big-hits, clever passes and post-try celebrations.
To produce the ad the League returned to the agency who created and produced the Tina Turner campaigns from 1989 to 1995 - Hertz Walpole Advertising by now renamed MJW Hakuhodo.
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|Date and Time||Venue||Referee||Crowd|
|Canberra Raiders||18 - 30||Melbourne Storm||12 September 2003||Canberra Stadium||Tim Mander||14,094|
|Bulldogs||22 - 48||New Zealand Warriors||13 September 2003||Sydney Showground||Bill Harrigan||18,312|
|Sydney Roosters||36 - 8||Newcastle Knights||13 September 2003||Aussie Stadium||Sean Hampstead||23,853|
|Penrith Panthers||28 - 18||Brisbane Broncos||14 September 2003||Penrith Football Stadium||Steve Clark||18,534|
|New Zealand Warriors||17 - 16||Canberra Raiders||20 September 2003||Aussie Stadium||Tim Mander||31,616|
|Bulldogs||30 - 0||Melbourne Storm||21 September 2003||Aussie Stadium||Bill Harrigan||19,367|
|Sydney Roosters||28 - 18||Bulldogs||27 September 2003||Aussie Stadium||Bill Harrigan||41,123|
|Penrith Panthers||28 - 20||New Zealand Warriors||28 September 2003||Telstra Stadium||Tim Mander||43,174|
|Qualifying Finals||Semi Finals||Preliminary Finals||Grand Final|
|2||Sydney||36||4W||New Zealand||17||New Zealand||20|
Sunday, 5 October
|Penrith Panthers||18 - 6||Sydney Roosters|
Luke Rooney (2)
Preston Campbell (2/2)
Ryan Girdler (1/1)
Craig Fitzgibbon (1/1)
The following statistics are as of the conclusion of Round 26.
Top 5 point scorers
Top 5 try scorers
Top 5 goal scorers
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