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The Droughtbreakers: A Look Back on the 2002 Premiership

The Premiers of 2002 etched a number of Roosters into Club folklore, and in the process, broke a 27-year drought to bring the trophy to Bondi for the first time since 1975.

Despite being in the infancy of his coaching career, former Test halfback Ricky Stuart was called upon as Head Coach for the season, with former mentor Phil Gould assigned as a coaching director.

2002 Grand Final Highlights: Roosters vs Warriors

Still only 34 years of age and just two years after retiring from the game, Stuart had shown potential, guiding Canterbury's Jersey Flegg side to a title the season prior.

Overcoming a dire opening five rounds which saw just one win and a casualty ward of 15 players, the 12th placed Tricolours bounced back in style with a 58-12 win over the North Queensland Cowboys, going on to win nine of the next eleven matches. 

Favourite son Luke Ricketson broke the Club's all-time record for most caps in Round 14, besting fellow one-club man Kevin Hastings' record which stood from 1987. 

 

Three losses on the trot saw the side seven points from the top four, but a turning point came in Round 22 when they bounced the Broncos in Brisbane, 28-18, kick-starting a nine-match winning streak.

Due to acquiring a new sponsor on the playing shorts, the Roosters were forced to wear an all-white strip that night, and Stuart's superstitions saw his players don the colours for the remaining away matches, becoming synonymous with the side. 

Five strong wins - including a final round 30-18 win over Cronulla - saw the Tricolours sneak into fourth place with the finals looming. 

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Warriors is number 1 Ivan Cleary
    Fullback for Roosters is number 1 Luke Phillips
  • Winger for Warriors is number 2 Justin Murphy
    Winger for Roosters is number 2 Brett Mullins
  • Centre for Warriors is number 3 John Carlaw
    Centre for Roosters is number 3 Shannon Hegarty
  • Centre for Warriors is number 4 Clinton Toopi
    Centre for Roosters is number 4 Justin Hodges
  • Winger for Warriors is number 5 Francis Meli
    Winger for Roosters is number 5 Anthony Minichiello
  • Five-Eighth for Warriors is number 6 Motu Tony
    Five-Eighth for Roosters is number 6 Brad Fittler
  • Halfback for Warriors is number 7 Stacey Jones
    Halfback for Roosters is number 7 Craig Wing

Forwards

  • Prop for Warriors is number 8 Jerry Seuseu
    Prop for Roosters is number 8 Jason Cayless
  • Hooker for Warriors is number 9 PJ Marsh
    Hooker for Roosters is number 9 Simon Bonetti
  • Prop for Warriors is number 10 Mark Tookey
    Prop for Roosters is number 10 Peter Cusack
  • 2nd Row for Warriors is number 11 Ali Lauiti'iti
    2nd Row for Roosters is number 12 Craig Fitzgibbon
  • 2nd Row for Warriors is number 12 Awen Guttenbeil
    2nd Row for Roosters is number 14 Adrian Morley
  • Lock for Warriors is number 13 Kevin Campion
    Lock for Roosters is number 13 Luke Ricketson

Interchange

  • Interchange for Warriors is number 14 Lance Hohaia
    Interchange for Roosters is number 11 Bryan Fletcher
  • Interchange for Warriors is number 15 Richard Villasanti
    Interchange for Roosters is number 15 Andrew Lomu
  • Interchange for Warriors is number 16 Wairangi Koopu
    Interchange for Roosters is number 16 Chris Flannery
  • Interchange for Warriors is number 17 Logan Swann
    Interchange for Roosters is number 17 Michael Crocker

Match Officials

  • Referee: Bill Harrigan

Last updated:

Taking on the Sharks in the first week, the Red, White and Blue cruised past with a 32-20 victory, before a torrid semi-final against the Newcastle Knights saw the Roosters triumph 38-12, mostly thanks to a Craig Fitzgibbon 95-metre intercept try.

Erasing the pain of the 2000 Grand Final, Brad Fittler's men charged into their second decider in three seasons - even after hooker Simon Bonetti and Ricketson succumbed to injury - to overcome a 12-8 half-time deficit and storm home against the Brisbane Broncos in the preliminary final, winning 16-12.

While there was doubt of Ricketson featuring in the 2002 decider, the local junior pushed through adversity to take his place in the decider after being cleared to play at midday of the game. 

The Roosters found themselves on the scoreboard first through Shannon Hegarty, and while they trailed 6-8 just after halftime, captain Fittler kicked a 40/20 before putting his halves partner Craig Wing over to reclaim a narrow 14-8 lead. 

One of the most memorable Grand Final moments soon followed as the skipper courageously recovered from an ugly hit courtesy of Warriors' hitman Richard Villasanti, which was the spark the side needed as they rallied behind their leader.

Fitzgibbon wrestled his way to the line in an exhaustive effort, before young utility Chris Flannery dived on a Fittler grubber to extend the lead further, while fan favourite Bryan Fletcher marked his final game in the Red, White and Blue with a trademark four-pointer in the dying stages. 

A stirring performance from Fitzgibbon saw the backrower claim the Clive Churchill Medal as he added five goals to his name, and the Roosters washed away 27 years of heartache to claim the Club's 12th Premiership.

 

Sydney Roosters 30 (Craig Fitzgibbon, Chris Flannery, Bryan Fletcher, Shannon Hegarty, Craig Wing tries; Craig Fitzgibbon 5 goals) defeat New Zealand Warriors 8

2002 Season Details

 

2002 Player Details

 

Acknowledgement of Country

Sydney Roosters respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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