Sunday, 7 August 2011

The Great Conundrum (2010)

The NRL doesn’t know it yet, nor have they even bothered contemplating it, but if some extraordinary results were to occur over the remaining four weeks of the competition, we could see somewhat of a conundrum regarding the finals.

At present there are 12 teams still all capable of earning a spot in the top 8. Only 3 wins separates the second placed Penrith from the twelfth placed Parramatta.

I have done some calculations and have revealed that it is still possible that more than eight teams can lay legitimate claims for a finals berth, depending on how the results fall.

It is very realistic for there to be one team on 32 points, 6 teams on 30 points and 5 teams on 28 points. And if the score lines are as they are listed below, we will see the teams on 30 points with the exact same for and against and all the teams on 28 points also with identical for and against records.

Round 23
Parramatta defeat Brisbane 58-28
Canterbury defeat Canberra 60-40
Manly defeat Dragons 45-44
Cronulla defeat Roosters 32-14
Melbourne defeat Souths 62-12
Cowboys defeat Gold Coast 34-32
Newcastle defeat Warriors 42-30
Penrith defeat Wests Tigers 18-17

Round 24
Cowboys defeat Canterbury 30-4
Parramatta defeat Wests Tigers 50-34
Brisbane defeat Newcastle 17-15
Souths defeat Penrith 12-10
Canberra defeat Dragons 88-38
Gold Coast defeat Roosters 28-10
Warriors defeat Manly 33-14
Melbourne defeat Cronulla 18-14

Round 25
Canterbury defeat Penrith 78-2
Newcastle defeat Dragons 62-32
Parramatta defeat Souths 48-28
Canberra defeat Cowboys 38-20
Roosters defeat Manly 17-16
Cronulla defeat Gold Coast 33-32
Brisbane defeat Warriors 28-27
Melbourne defeat Wests Tigers 15-14

Round 26
Canberra defeat Brisbane 34-12
Cowboys defeat Roosters 18-15
Souths defeat Dragons 19-12
Parramatta defeat Warriors 48-44
Cronulla defeat Penrith 36-12
Canterbury defeat Manly 77-20
Newcastle defeat Melbourne 31-25
Wests Tigers defeat Gold Coast 46-26

Now as I said, some of the results have farcical score lines, but as we know with rugby league, anything is possible.

Obviously I’ve taken some creative liberty here, but it is purely to prove a point.

After much searching, I have been unable to find any official documentation from the NRL regarding the situation of two teams that have the same win-loss record, as well as identical for and against tallies at the end of the season.

The NRL has been proudly boasting about how close it’s competition is every year and they work hard to ensure this through the use of a salary cap and stringent auditing processes to ensure every club is on an even keel.

So it is surprising, given this, that they have no real plan in place for when even just two teams are tied at any spot in the ladder.

The points difference policy should be retained to determine all the top of the ladder placings. But if there are one or more teams outside the top 8 who have as many competition points as a team inside the 8, then we should have play-offs.

Using points difference to determine that a team isn’t good enough for the finals is flimsy and open to criticism. The higher placed side may have not been impacted by representative duties as much as the teams below them or other such reasons could be raised.

I’d like to see the NRL bring forward a plan to have play-offs re-introduced prior to the finals race to determine which teams truly belong in the top 8.

If the above were to happen, then we’d find another much larger hurdle; how to determine which teams play against one another. The only quick and reasonably fair method would be a lottery style system, with all games played at a neutral venue.

It’d make for a cracker of a finals series!

Obviously, such an occurrence is highly unlikely, but as each year passes, the top 8 gets more and more congested. This is the type of competition the NRL wants. Just because the possibility of this has yet to happen doesn’t mean such a policy shouldn’t be put in place.

Looking back, the media couldn’t believe it when St.George pummelled Canterbury 91-6 back in 1935. Some reports suggested such a score line will never be seen again.

Exactly one week later, Easts belted Canterbury 87-7.

So as we can see, anything is possible.

Like all 16 teams finishing with 12 wins, 12 losses and the same for and against.

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