Each year I get requests from Crikey readers to explain the “McIntyre System” which guides the NRL semi-finals, preliminary final and grand final. I can do no more than try my best!

It is complicated, and it is the subject of much discussion (and division) in rugby league circles. A poll currently running on the NRL website proves that. In answer to the question – is the McIntyre System the best way to determine the premiership? – 1,787 said “yes” and 1,799 said “no”.

It’s also worth noting that the AFL has ditched McIntyre’s Eight for a variation, having previously used the Geelong man’s system for finals series with fewer teams.

To understand the NRL system, you need to keep in mind the standings of the teams at the end of the premiership rounds. This year the standings are – 1. Storm; 2. Bulldogs; 3. Broncos; 4. Knights; 5. Sea Eagles; 6. Dragons; 7. Raiders; 8. Eels. Those rankings are the benchmark for this weekend.

Under the system, teams one and two have a massive advantage. Teams three and four may have an advantage depending on how they perform in round one of the semi-finals.

This weekend 1 plays 8, 2 plays 7, 3 plays 6, and 4 plays 5. There will be four winners, but there will only be two losers! Confused? Join the queue …

After this weekend, only two teams will be eliminated: the two lowest ranking losers. And two teams will get next weekend off: the two highest ranking winners.

That’s the great advantage in finishing first or second. It’s not possible for the first and second placed teams to be eliminated this weekend.

If, and this has never happened yet, teams 1, 2, 3 and 4 all lose, then teams 3 and 4 (Broncos and Knights) will be eliminated.

To be certain to survive into round two, teams 5 to 8 need to win this weekend. If they don’t, they have to depend on one or more of the top four teams losing. If team 8 (Eels) lose, they are out regardless of the other results, and this weekend they have to play the minor premiers, Storm, in Melbourne.

Is it any wonder that half the fans in the NRL poll want to ditch the McIntyre System? The best news in all this confusion is that all four games will be shown live (but not advertisement free) on Nine in New South Wales and Queensland.

Peter Fray

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