NRL Rd 4 - Titans v Tigers
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 07: Harry Grant of the Tigers runs the ball during the round four NRL match between the Gold Coast Titans and the Wests Tigers at Suncorp Stadium on June 07, 2020 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Another week, another variation of the NRL finals system thrown up for discussion.

This time the supposed system includes an NFL-style “WildCard” weekend of games. The thinking being, well it works for the NFL and they’re the most watched league in America.

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Let me straight shoot for a moment; any suggestions of more than eight teams taking place in an NRL finals serious is downright ridiculous and should be shot down immediately.

As it is, HALF the teams in the competition play finals. I’m a life long Sharks fans who can spin almost anything, but even I know that the Sharks are only in the finals series this year by default.

It would take the mother of all miracles for the Sharks to even get close to the Raiders in round one of knock out footy. They’re there purely because other teams are bad.

No hate on the Sharks, the club has been convincingly better than the eight teams below them, but can you imagine a team worse than the Sharks being a shot at finals this season?

The Titans are in good form but they were so terrible early on that they’ve been playing without finals pressure for two months. The Tigers or Manly could potentially play Wildcard weekend if this new, ludicrous system was to see the light of day.

Yes it works in America for the NFL but we are talking two hugely different sets of circumstances.

Firstly, there are far more teams in the American version of football. Up until this year, eight conference winners, and four wildcards (across two divisions) qualified for the playoffs. This year there will be another wild card team, but let’s stick with what has been known.

That’s 12 teams playing finals out of the 32 teams competing across eight divisions.

The difference between a division title or a wildcard in the NFL can literally be a field goal. A team can come second in a division, securing a wildcard spot, with a better record than any other division winner in the league.

Meanwhile in the NRL, you want to allow a team with a sub-40% winning record a chance of playing finals footy?

Pass.

The current top eight system isn’t perfect. I’d argue that that half the competition doesn’t deserve to play finals. That said, it’s by far the best system going.

Anyone remember the McIntyre Final System? Yuck.

The current system rewards regular season form. Finish top four, secure a guaranteed second chance. The top four teams all host at least one final, with the first and second teams theoretically holding home ground advantage all the way to the grand final.

Of course stadium rules complicate things but ultimately the Roosters and Storm, for example, can host home games all the way to the Grand Final by finishing in the top two.

Yes, it’s proven impossible to win the title from outside the top four since the introduction of the current system, but again, you could argue no one outside of the top four in the regular season really deserves it.

The Raiders look as though they may prove at least an outside chance of ending his stat. The Cowboys made a Grand Final from 8th. It can be done. They ran into a near perfect Storm side, but they were a shot.

So let’s up and change it to include the Tigers and Titans. Let’s combine the wins by the current 9th and 10th placed teams. Spoiler: it’s less than that compiled by the Panthers alone.

The ONLY way a potential wildcard round makes sense is if there’s a tie of competition points for the seventh to 10th placed teams. Say the Bunnies, Sharks, Tigers and Titans were all on 20 competition points, then I can see value. Points differential can be deceiving, although another round of finals games isn’t exactly going to be welcomed by any of those four teams.

This suggested system hands a huge advantage to the top six teams. It pits four teams against each other in another round of competition which all but hands them, prone, to their week one opponents.

Why not just cut out the middle man and make a top six system!? That, I could get behind if we absolutely have to fix what really isn’t broken.

Another line of thinking is that Wildcard Weekend would reduce dead rubbers. Anyone outside of finals contention now doesn’t deserve to play finals. Simple as that. Yes, Manly vs Warriors becomes more interesting if there’s a slight chance of a Wildcard, but then we have to endure the possibility of either of those sides playing finals.

I swear this comes up once of twice a year, but I can’t see any merit. Seems like a massive waste of time.

LEAVE THE FINALS ALONE!!!