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It’s time for the NRL to ditch the top eight




Whether a team takes part in the NRL finals or not more often than not defines whether they’ve had a successful season.

Yet the common theory is that if they’ve finished in the bottom half of the eight, they have little chance of winning the competition.

On top of this, with the system we now have in place, it’s nearly as important to finish in the top two, as in some years the teams finishing fifth and sixth have an advantage over third and fourth – they play at home against much weaker opposition, so feasibly could come into the next game much fresher.

(Oh, that reminds me, it’s also a pretty complicated system!)

The first week of the finals creates a final six that, as it stands, can be viewed as a giant waste of time. It’s also unfair on the top teams, who battle it out in Week 1 only to shuffle the order around to work out which teams earns a break the following week. But haven’t the top two already earned a break?

Let’s cut to the chase – ditch the final eight and go to a final six!

A top eight weakens the integrity of the competition in that it rewards mediocrity. It’s not uncommon for the eighth ranked team to have a negative points differential. Do we really want that in a premiership team?

I’m not attacking any team in particular, only the system itself (even though, as a proud descendant of Danish Vikings, I am appalled at the appropriation of my culture).

Adam Elliot of the Raiders

(Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

There are many who complain that the season is too long. Well, here’s a week less for you!

As to the main arguments in favour of an eight…

It creates interest
Does it, though?

If your team manages to claw its way into eighth, do you really think you’re going to the big dance? And as I’ve suggested, do they even deserve to?

Have Raiders fans started to book their accommodation in anticipation of being there when Mal Meninga blows the horn they borrowed from the Minnesota Vikings? Maybe they have. Good luck to you!

And do you not have interest in your team anyway, regardless of where they stand on the ladder? Wests Tigers were already guaranteed the wooden spoon last Sunday, yet Leichhardt Oval was packed with over 10,000 fans – mostly wearing gold and black.

And this year there were plenty of teams vying for sixth place right up to the end of the season, so there would’ve been just as much so-called ‘interest’.

It creates the possibility of a fairy-tale finish
Look, I don’t want to sound cold-hearted, because I’m not – dogs and cats love me! But I don’t care!

Cinderella deserved to be at the ball. Snow White deserved to wake up. Rapunzel deserved to be rescued from her tower (although why she didn’t just cut off her hair, tie it to something and climb down herself, I’ll never know).

But the team finishing halfway down the ladder doesn’t really deserve to be our champion.

The finals is a new competition
Well, yes, sort of… but it isn’t.

The NRL makes revenue from gate receipts
And there you have it! Money rules – I wouldn’t be surprised if we got a final ten in a few years! It’s the same reason why we have the grand final in a stadium where you need binoculars from even the best seats, and the same reason why we have a night-time decider (even though it would still be the highest rating program of the year if was played in the daytime).

Alright, you’ve convinced me! I can’t compete with that. The eight is here to stay and there’s nothing I can do about it!

Go out and enjoy, and may your team make you proud in victory or defeat.

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