The 2001 NRL season was the 94th season of professional rugby league football in Australia and the fourth run by the National Rugby League. Also called the 2001 Telstra Premiership (due to sponsorship from Telstra Corporation) it was contested by thirteen Australian-based clubs plus one New Zealand-based club. The Newcastle Knights claimed their second premiership in five seasons, defeating minor premiers Parramatta Eels in the NRL's first ever night-time grand final.
Early in the season NRL matches involving the Bulldogs were marred by off-field violence from the club's supporters.
The Parramatta Eels looked set to break their fifteen-year premiership drought as they compiled one of the most dominant season records in rugby league history, losing just four of their 26 regular season games with the League's best attack and defensive record. In 2001 they established the standing record for most points by a club in a season with 943, blitzing the Brisbane Broncos' previous record tally of 871 set in 1998. The Eels tally was significantly contributed to by Jason Taylor, who that year surpassed Daryl Halligan's mark of 2,034 to become the greatest point-scorer in the history of club competition in Australia.
The Warriors made the finals for the first time in their seven-year history under rookie coach Daniel Anderson, but were hammered 56-12 by the aforementioned minor premiers.
After Warren Ryan retired in 2000, the Newcastle Knights appointed former player Michael Hagan to the coaching position. Hagan proceeded to become the first coach since Phil Gould in 1988 to win a premiership in his first season as coach. Ricky Stuart would follow suit with the Roosters the following season. Tim Sheens was sacked as the coach of the North Queensland Cowboys during the season and was replaced by Murray Hurst. Mal Meninga resigned as Canberra coach following the club's disappointing season and in turn was replaced by Matthew Elliott.
Preston Campbell was a deserved winner of the Dally M medal after being an instrumental player in the Sharks' rise to fourth position on the table. Newcastle's Andrew Johns would have been clear winner but was not in contention due to missing two matches through suspension. Brian Smith was recognised as Coach of the Year whilst Braith Anasta won Rookie of the Year.
It was during the 2001 finals series that the new NRL Telstra Premiership logo was used, first seen on the field in the first qualifying final between the Sharks and the Broncos. That logo was to be used until the end of the 2006 season. Coincidentally, the Brisbane Broncos were also involved in the last match to use that logo, albeit in a modified finals version seen on the ground in the 2006 NRL Grand Final.
At the end of the season a squad of players from the NRL premiership went on the 2001 Kangaroo tour.
Every team except Penrith played at least one drawn match during the course of the season. The Bulldogs had three drawn matches, the most of any team during the season.
Auckland were renamed the New Zealand Warriors for the 2001 season.
With a new CEO in David Moffat from 2000 the NRL late that year moved their account to a new advertising agency in Saatchi & Saatchi Sydney.
There was no umbrella campaign in 2001, no season launch gala ad. NRL Marketing Director, Mark Wallace insisted that the League's marketing budget remained the same as in prior years but that the focus was to be on promoting individual games and complementing the clubs' own marketing activities.
An ad was produced to promote certain key games. The scene is a deserted, eerie CBD street. The sound of a squeaky wheel gets louder until a clown rides into the middle of shot on a tricycle and turns to camera pouting and frowning. The voice over comes up: "This Easter long weekend the Dragons v Roosters at Sydney Football Stadium. You'd be a clown to miss it".Parramatta Eels scored the most points in a season by any club in history scoring 943 points in total.
Wendell Sailor ran 4,452 metres with the ball in 2001, more than any other player in the competition.
On July 5, the Melbourne Storm beat the Wests Tigers 64-0, which is the Storm's biggest ever win and Tigers biggest ever loss. The very next day the Newcastle Knights beat the Brisbane Broncos 44-0, which was set at the time, the Broncos biggest ever loss at the time.
In round 23, Wests Tigers recorded their biggest comeback when they came from a 24-0 down after 30 minutes of play to win 36-32 against the Newcastle Knights which is the Knights worst collapse. Also equalled the second biggest ever comeback.
Numbers highlighted in green indicate that the team finished the round inside the top 8.
Numbers highlighted in blue indicates the team finished first on the ladder in that round.
Numbers highlighted in red indicates the team finished in last place on the ladder in that round
To decide the grand finalists from the top eight finishing teams, the NRL adopted the McIntyre Final Eight System.