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The NSW Women's team celebrate their first Interstate Challenge victory.

Unless you've been living under a rock, 2016 has been the year of the fairytale. From Leicester City winning the English Premier League, to the Chicago Cubs ending 108 years of heartbreak to claim the World Series pennant, this year has been about the underdog saluting. 

Donald Trump's ascension to President-elect has capped off a dramatic year that has seen virtually every sport on the planet crown a surprise champion.

Rugby league might not have thrown up as many OMG results as years gone by, but Cronulla's first premiership since joining the competition in 1967 kept the fairytale theme alive.

Here's a look back at the biggest upsets across all rugby league competitions in 2016.  

5. Round 23, Warriors v Souths

The Rabbitohs travelled across the ditch staring down the barrel of a 10th straight loss. They had been trounced by 50 points two weeks earlier by the Raiders, but took eventual minor premiers the Storm to golden point the following week. The Warriors were riding a two-game winning streak and were looking to solidify their spot in the top eight. But after 40 minutes, the form guide had been thrown on its head. An Adam Reynolds masterclass saw the Rabbitohs halfback set up three tries and kick five goals in a virtuoso 45-minute performance before he succumbed to injury. By that stage his side had raced out to a 31-6 lead, and despite some late consolation tries to the hosts, Souths snapped its losing streak in style, running out 41-22 winners. 

4. Round 23, Dragons v Sharks 

As the match in New Zealand was drawing to a close, news emerged that Sharks skipper Paul Gallen had been ruled out of the local derby against the Dragons. Even so, the ladder leaders were expected to bounce back from their first loss in over four months against a team that had scored only 48 points in its previous five games. The writing was on the wall early as Valentine Holmes intercepted an adventurous pass to score inside three minutes, but the Dragons stuck to their guns and threw the ball around to rattle their more-fancied rivals. Led by Tariq Sims, the Red V produced the sort of footy their fans had been praying for all season to stun the Sharks 32-18 to earn bragging rights in southern Sydney.

3. NSW v Queensland (Women's Interstate Challenge) 

While nothing will contend with the Sharks' drought-breaking victory on grand final day, the NSW women came an easy second when they ended Queensland's 17-year stranglehold of the annual event. In a low-scoring contest, both sides crossed just once, but the boot of Maddie Studdon ensured the Blues would hoist the Nellie Doherty Cup for the first time. After a scoreless first half, NSW lock forward Simaima Taufa broke the deadlock with the opening try, before Studdon put the result beyond doubt with a late penalty goal. 

2. Holden Cup Grand Final, Panthers v Roosters

This was a result few saw coming. The all-conquering Panthers were the short-price favourites to claim back-to-back Holden Cup titles against a Roosters side competing in their first Holden Cup decider. Things looked like they were going to script when the minor premiers shot out to a 28-6 half-time lead, only for the Tricolours to storm home in the second stanza to stun the rugby league world with 22-unanswered points. There was drama galore as Johnny Tuivasa-Sheck gave his side the lead with a long-range try, only for the Panthers to miss a late penalty goal that would have sent the game into extra-time. 

1. Round 6, Knights v Wests Tigers 

Every team has a 'what if' match, and for the Tigers, this was the day that ultimately cost them a spot in the finals. Having won their opening two games of the season, the Tigers headed to Newcastle on the back of a hat-trick of losses, but were still expected to beat the Knights who had yet to register a win in 2016. Ahead by two points, the match was turned on its head when the Knights were awarded a contentious line dropout despite Korbin Sims kicking a second ball towards Jordan Rankin that distracted the winger, resulting in a repeat set. The Knights capitalised through Nathan Ross to open up an eight-point cushion, and while the visitors pegged one back, it wasn't enough as the Knights clung on for an 18-16 win to end a winless drought that had lasted 230 days. 


Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours 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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