How vulnerable are the Knights to missing the finals as Gus Gould suggests? And will it get any easier for the Raiders?
For a bit of fun last week, the Dr attempted to quantify the strength of the draw facing the contenders for the bottom half of the NRL finals, just to see if what actually looked like common sense stacked up in some way.
The question is how can we get a rough approximation of the draw that is fair and reasonable, but which is also relatively simple to implement? After all, there are upsets, injuries, weather-affected matches, playing surfaces of variable quality, and the inevitable issues behind the scenes that influence preparation and performance, but which the public don’t get to see in real time.
I also tried adjusting for home and away matches, but the results were insignificantly different.
I don’t know about you, but I find that home advantage or, more particularly, away disadvantage seem to matter less as the finals approach for the simple reason that games are often in the must win category.
All of these factors mean that even if you wanted to devise a PhD thesis-quality model for the strength of the draw, you probably would get something close to what is shown below. But what’s the point?
Though you can try if you want 🙂
The values attributed to opposing teams are simply the reverse number of their current placing.
That is, the Eels are 16th, so are awarded a 1 (as the most beatable team, to put it euphemistically), while the leading Rabbitohs are given a 16 rating.
There has been a adjustment to last week’s total number to make it a score per game (Draw Strength above). It’s much easier, then, to dynamically compare the path of the results as the weeks unfold.
Note also that opposition ratings will change marginally on a weekly basis as ladder positions shuffle about.
Other additions include the difference in Draw Strength between each team on the list, and a difference to the 3rd placing.
I have done it this way in order to tease out the 8th and last finalist (or 4th on this list), based on the idea that the Bulldogs, Sharks and Knights are placed well enough to take positions five through seven. Clearly, you have to make some assumptions!
What do you notice? A few standouts.
First, the Knights swap places with the Bulldogs in terms of Draw Strength, having put the Roosters behind them last week (and who had a high value of 15), while the Bulldogs put the Eels behind them (with a value of just 1 – so of course their draw gets harder!).
Second, the Warriors maintain the 4th most favourable draw leading into the finals. And not only that, the gap in draw strength to the 3rd placed Sharks is far narrower. As mentioned way back, their destiny lays with themselves alone. Their current position and For & Against requires an almost perfect run to the finals, but they have the ability (and the draw) to do it.
Third, the Panthers’ and Raiders’ draw actually becomes harder. The Panthers have collapsed at the first hurdle, and now face a higher one in the form of the Roosters this weekend. It’s a must win game, even if it is unlikely.
The 7th placed Raiders will struggle to hold that ranking from here onwards. Their Draw Strength number of 12.2 implies that their last six matches will be against opposition with an average quality of the Bulldogs, with a dash of Storm thrown in (given they have values of 12 and 13 respectively).
So when Gus Gould (who I love to listen to and read) says in his column that the Knights will do it tough (or implicitly tougher than other candidates) to reach the finals, I respectfully disagree, and suggest the Raiders are more likely to miss out altogether.