NRL Finals 2014

Published: September 16, 2014

NRL Finals 2014, Well, that was a weekend and a half of football, wasn’t it? Despite being just four games compared to the regular eight, and only played over three days, rather than the five of rounds previous, it felt like a big weekend of NRL.

My highlight? Souths’ first 60 minutes. They looked every bit of a premiership-winning side against Manly, who looked every bit not a premiership-winning side. I would hate to go on record writing off the Sea Eagles, though, as those who do tend to earn lifelong ire from Manly fans as well as a copious dose of egg on face.

I still don’t think this year’s their year, though.

The finals system, now three years on, is doing it’s thing too. It makes for a fairer pointy end, and generally appeases those who gaze longingly at the AFL modus operandi as well as those who just want a fair fight for their team.

But in my view, something sticks out as not quite right about the matches we’re to see this weekend.

The fifth-placed Cowboys will be playing the minor premiership-winning Roosters, while the seventh-placed Canterbury side are facing a down and out Manly, who finished the regular season in second.

Something about that doesn’t seem quite right.

I’m far from a North Queensland conspiracy screamer, coming from Brisbane originally, but it seems to me like those matches should be inverted, and it should be the Cowboys having a Round 26 rematch against the Sea Eagles, and the low-finishing Bulldogs facing the Roosters.

But before we get into solutions, let’s look at how the finals system works.

Basically, when the top eight qualify, they’re spilt into two halves.

1, 4, 5 and 8 are in one half, and 2, 3, 6 and 7 are in the other. If you add both of those sets, you get the same figure, 18, so mathematically, all seems fair and square, particularly if the finals run to the script.

If 1 beats 4, as they should, and 2 beats three, as theoretically they should. Then 5 beats 8 and 6 beats 7, then the second week of the finals look very different than they do this weekend.

You would then have 4 playing 5 and 3 playing 6 in the second week, which is more than fair. Again, add the two sets of numbers.

But the NRL is a bit of a special case. Every team is so even that you barely go a season without a few finals upsets. In this case both 1 and 2 lost for the first time since this finals system has been introduced.

This means that now the Cowboys, who would ‘usually’ be playing fourth place, are now playing first. The Bulldogs got lucky, and are playing the second placed Manly.

So should there be a contingency in the formula? Should the highest ranked loser (the Roosters in this case), instead play the lowest ranked winner, the Bulldogs here. And then the lowest ranked loser (Manly) would play the highest ranked winner from the lower bracket, the Cowboys.

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