Mark Hughes, Adam MacDougall and Danny Buderus.

The Parramatta Eels were the standout team in the 2001 season, but were blown away in the first half of the grand final by an enthusiastic Newcastle Knights side that was superbly led by Immortal Andrew Johns.

It took Bill Peden just three minutes to open the scoring for the Novocastrians, and after 25 minutes Newcastle held a match-winning 18-0 lead, thanks to a second try to Peden and another four-pointer to Steve Simpson.

Ben Kennedy capped off a dominant first half with a try of his own as the Knights took a 24-0 lead into the break.

Brett Hodgson scored Parramatta's first try in the early stages of the second half, but that joy was short lived as Timana Tahu crossed in the 63rd minute for his side's fifth try of the night.

From there it was just a matter of holding on for Newcastle as the Eels threw everything at them in the closing stages.

But it was too little too late, as the Knights held on for the 30-24 victory. It was the club's second premiership since entering the competition in 1988.

The Best Player: Andrew Johns was awarded the Clive Churchill Medal. Newcastle's halfback and captain orchestrated the assertive start and while he was only credited with one try assist, he played a role in nearly all of the points.

Knights back-rower Ben Kennedy.
Knights back-rower Ben Kennedy. ©NRL Photos

The unsung hero(es): There were many players who stood up during the match for Newcastle, none more so than the back row of Peden, Kennedy and Simpson. Between them they each got a try and controlled the edges to perfection, coming up with creative plays and strong defence.

The Play of the Day: The fast start made by the Knights set a winning platform. They had the game in the bag at halftime. Kennedy's try just before the break was important for several reasons, not only did it push the margin out to four converted tries, but it denied the Eels the head into the sheds with any momentum.

The what-if moment: In the 26th-minute, with his side trailing 18-0, Eels interchange forward Andrew Ryan looked certain to crash over and open the Eels account. Enter Steve Simpson with a superb one-on-one tackle that prevented Ryan from touching down. If the score had come back to 18-6 the Eels would have been given a new lease on life.

The Quote: Johns described the 2001 season as one of the most enjoyable years he ever played: "It was a business but it was fun, and that's the way we played".

Recollections of a champion: Knights prop Josh Perry was only 20 at the time says the moment of winning for his hometown club was just "surreal".

"We knew they were so wound up and hot favourites, but if we could play our best and get on top of them, and that's what we did in the first half," Perry said.

"It started at the midweek grand final breakfast. We lined up next to Parramatta to walk out onto the stage, and they were so tense. They weren't talking to us, while we were being ourselves and having a joke and enjoying the moment – they were anything but that. From that moment on we knew we were going to win."

Nathan Cayless and the Eels.
Nathan Cayless and the Eels. ©NRL Photos

Recollection of a runner-up: Eels captain Nathan Cayless recalls that his side was completely blown away in the opening 40 minutes.

"Newcastle were just way too good in the first half and had an excellent game plan," he said.

"It was disappointing for us, and it took a long time to get into another grand final [2009]. We'd had a good season, and just wanted to stick to what we had done, and what worked for us so well. We didn’t change too much and just looked at it as if it were another game of football. Newcastle just played out of their skins."

Knights players celebrate their 2001 grand final win.
Knights players celebrate their 2001 grand final win. ©NRL Photos

The year after: Neither side was able to replicate the 2001 grand final appearance in the following year.

Newcastle finished second on the ladder and made it to the second week of the finals, where they were beaten 38-12 by the eventual premiers the Sydney Roosters, after 17 wins from the 24 matches in the regular season.

Parramatta only made it to the first week of the finals, after finishing sixth on the ladder, where they were knocked out by the Broncos.