1990: Canberra Raiders 18 (Tries: Ferguson, Daley, Wood, Goals: Meninga 3) def Penrith Panthers 14 (Tries: Alexander, Fittler, Smith, Goals: Alexander 1)
The glamorous Raiders asserted their authority on the competition in no uncertain terms in 1990, taking out the minor premiership and backing it up with their second-successive grand final win. They were forced to do it the hard way though after losing an extra-time major-semi final thriller to the Panthers (30-22), earning another shot at Penrith in the decider following a comprehensive 32-4 pummelling of Brisbane in the preliminary final. After leading 12-0 early, the Raiders had to fight all the way to secure back-to-back titles, eventually outlasting the gritty Panthers 18-14.
1991: Penrith Panthers 19 (Tries: Simmons 2, Izzard, Goals: Alexander 3, Field Goals: Alexander 1) def Canberra Raiders 12 (Tries: Wood 2, Goals: Meninga, Wood)
They say you have to lose a grand final to win one and that well-worn line rang true in 1991 when the Penrith Panthers turned the disappointment of premiership loss around to inflict revenge on Canberra. The Mountain Men were runaway minor premiers and booked their place in the grand final courtesy of a tense 16-14 major semi-final win over Norths. But there was always a fear that a side boasting the likes of Meninga, Belcher, Daley, Stuart, Walters and Lazarus could readily turn it on in the decider, especially after viewing the Green Machine's impressive 30-14 defeat of the Bears in the preliminary final. Retiring Penrith legend Royce Simmons had different ideas though, posting two tries in his side's breakthrough 19-12 premiership win.
1992: Brisbane Broncos 28 (Tries: Langer 2, Cann 2, Renouf, Goals: Matterson 4) def St George Dragons 8 (Tries: Walford, Gourley)
After four years of relative underachievement since entering the big league in 1988, the Brisbane Broncos finally came of age in 1992 to cruise to the minor premiership and ultimately take out their first grand final. A brilliant two-try Allan Langer performance in the major semi helped Brisbane to a grand final-qualifying 22-12 win over Illawarra before Brian Smith's St George finally ended the Steelers' fairytale in the prelim final with a tight 4-0 victory. On paper, the grand final appeared to be a mismatch and that's what eventuated with Langer starring again to mastermind Brisbane's 28-8 result over the Dragons.
1993: Brisbane Broncos 14 (Tries: Johns, Matterson, Carne, Goals: O'Neill) def St George Dragons 6 (Goals: Herron 3)
Things weren't as easy for the Broncos in 1993, having to qualify for the grand final from fifth position on the ladder. They easily accounted for Manly 36-10 and an understrength Canberra 30-12 in their first two finals before toppling much tougher opposition in Canterbury 23-16 to earn their spot in the big one. St George registered impressive finals wins over the Raiders and Bulldogs to be the first to qualify and were super confident of exacting revenge on the Broncos for the previous year's result. But silly errors cost the Dragons dearly, allowing Wayne Bennett's boys to grind out a dour 14-6 victory in front of a sold-out SFS that included rugby league poster girl Tina Turner. The Broncos were 'Simply the Best'.
1994: Canberra Raiders 36 (Tries: Nagas 2, Nadruku, Furner, Daley, Croker, Meninga, Goals: Furner 4) def Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 12 (Tries: Hetherington, Williams, Goals: Halligan 2)
Mal Meninga bowed out of club football a winner after leading Canberra to a powerful 36-12 flogging of the Bulldogs - their third and most recent premiership success. The Green Machine belted sides in the run home to the finals to finish in third position on the ladder, but their immaculate form hit a hurdle in a thrilling major semi-final when an extra-time Daryl Halligan field goal catapulted the Bulldogs directly into the grand final. After trailing 7-6 at half-time, the Raiders blew North Sydney away in the second half to record a convincing 22-9 preliminary final win before they stepped up a gear to demoralise the Bulldogs in the decider by 24 points.
1995: Sydney Bulldogs 17 (Tries: Price, G Hughes, Silva, Goals: Halligan 2, Field Goals: Lamb 1) def Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 4 (Goals: Ridge 2)
There were many firsts in 1995, including the newly-named ARL competition that included four new teams and a top-eight finals system. The Super League war also made its presence felt, but the club initially most affected by the upheaval would go on to win the competition. That club was the Bulldogs and after at one stage looking like missing the finals, they would go on a stunning run through the semis, with wins over the St George, Brisbane and Canberra, to take on minor premiers and hot favourites Manly in the grand final. With the aid of some controversial refereeing decisions, the Bulldogs suffocated the Sea Eagles in the big one to take out their fifth premiership with a 17-4 win.
1996: Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 20 (Tries: Innes, Menzies, Moore, Goals: Ridge 3, Innes 1) def St George Dragons 8 (Tries: Zisti, Goals: Bartrim 2)
Super League court battles dominated the 1996 rugby league season off the field, but Manly controlled the action on it. The Sea Eagles' limp offering in the 1995 decider was viewed as a 'choke' in some quarters, leaving the Bob Fulton-coached side even more determined to do the business come September. They were forced into a ding-dong battle with fellow ARL loyalists the Roosters in the second qualifying final and their slender 16-14 victory saw them advance to a grand final qualifier where they throttled the hapless Sharks 24-0. The Dragons finished in seventh spot on the ladder and progressed to grand final on the back of sudden-death victories over Canberra, the Roosters and Norths, but that's where their gallant run ended, with Manly's incredible defence paving the way for a richly-deserved 20-8 victory.
1997: (ARL Grand Final) Newcastle Knights 22 (Tries: O'Davis 2, Albert, Goals: A Johns 5) def Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 16 (Tries: Hopoate, Innes, Nevin, Goals: Nevin 2)
1997: (Super League Grand Final) Brisbane Broncos 26 (Tries: Renouf 3, Hancock, Goals: Lockyer 5) def Cronulla Sharks 8 (Tries: Richardson, Goals: Rogers 2)
Season 1997 was the year of the big split and rugby league fans were reluctantly presented with two sets of finals series. The ARL semis proved far more exciting than Super League's, culminating in a grand final that produced a finish equal to that of the memorable 1989 decider. Manly and Newcastle filled the top two spots on the ARL ladder and fittingly played the grand final despite both teams surviving serious scares in the semis. The Sea Eagles led 16-8 at the break and were expected to run away with the match in the second stanza, but that rusted-on Novocastrian spirit could not be underestimated and when speedy winger Darren Albert scored right on full-time to hand the Knights a remarkable first premiership, the city of Newcastle went into a week-long party that has been rarely been rivalled in Australian sport. The star-studded Broncos barely raised a sweat during their comfortable 26-8 Super League grand final victory over Cronulla, played in front of a record sporting crowd in Brisbane of 58,912 fans.
1998: Brisbane Broncos 38 (Tries: Campion, Carroll, Devere, Lee, Sailor, Smith, Tallis, Goals: Lockyer 5) def Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 12 (Tries: Grimaldi, Talau, Goals: Halligan 2)
This was the first season of the unified NRL, but it was a Super League-tinged grand final with the minor premiership-winning Broncos taking on the fast-finishing Canterbury side in the decider. The Broncos were raging premiership favourites, but they did go down to Parramatta 15-10 in their finals opener before bouncing back with comfortable victories over Melbourne and the Roosters to surge into the grand final. The Bulldogs took full advantage of the crazy 10-team finals format in this newly-created 20-team competition to win four sudden-death semis and make the grand final from ninth spot on the ladder. One of their most celebrated finals victories of all-time came in the preliminary final against Parramatta, where the never-say-die Doggies turned a 16-point deficit late in the game into a memorable 32-20 extra-time win. Sadly, their extraordinary run ended a week later, with Brisbane cruising to an emphatic 38-12 victory to claim their fourth title.
1999: Melbourne Storm 20 (Tries: Martin, Roarty, Smith (penalty try), Goals: Smith 3, Geyer 1) def St George Illawarra Dragons 18 (Tries: Fitzgibbon, Blacklock, McGregor, Goals: Bartrim 2, Fitzgibbon 1)
With the number of teams in the NRL reduced to 17 for the 1999 season, the league reverted to a top-eight system of finals that year, but on this occasion the AFL's controversial McIntyre System was used. The first week of the finals went largely according to plan, although the newly-merged St George Illawarra club did spring an upset of sorts, belting the third-placed Melbourne Storm 34-10 at Olympic Park. The teams would meet again in the grand final after Melbourne came back from the dead to beat Parramatta 18-16 in the Saturday night preliminary final and Anthony Mundine led the Dragons to a 24-8 defeat over minor premier Cronulla the following day. A world-record rugby league crowd of 107,999 (depending on which publication you read) packed Sydney's new Olympic Stadium to witness the Storm win their first-ever title in just their second season on the back of a controversial video refereeing decision by Chris Ward to award Melbourne winger Craig Smith a penalty try nearing full-time.