The 2024 NRL draw has been released, and the fairness of it again will undoubtedly be called into question.
The simple fact of life is that it's impossible to make a totally 'fair' draw when you play only eight teams out of 17 twice.
Zero Tackle have ran the numbers so you don't have to in determining which teams have the easiest and toughest draws for 2024.
A sliding scale has been used, awarding 17 points to play last year's minor premiers - the Penrith Panthers, 16 to play the second-placed finishers on the ladder and so on, all the way down to the last-placed Wests Tigers who attract just one point.
A team's scores are then added together to spit out a total, which is used to rank the teams draw.
After receiving the second-easiest draw under this metric last year, the Cronulla Sharks have the easiest this year, while it could be a tough slog throughout 2024 for the Bulldogs, Rabbitohs and Storm.
17. Cronulla Sharks - 191 points
The Sharks again have a cruisy run through 2024, playing less top eight sides off last year's ladder than any other. That does come with the small but of the fact they play the Rabbitohs and Cowboys, who were widely tipped to finish in the top eight.
Their double up list features the Bulldogs, Dragons, Tigers and Titans though who all finished in last year's bottom four.
Cronulla do kick-off their season across the Tasman, but then have a chance to build some momentum with the Bulldogs and Tigers, before they play the Raiders ahead of a bye.
16. New Zealand Warriors - 207 points
The Warriors were one of the big surprise packets in 2023, and if they come out the same way in 2024, will have the draw to ensure they finish at the pointy end of affairs.
While the Auckland-based side always find an advantage during the State of Origin period, the Warriors play just 12 games against last year's top eight, and avoid all of the top four opposition apart from the Melbourne Storm twice.
They start their season at home against the Sharks, but then hit the road to play the Storm in Melbourne which will be a tough early test.
15. Newcastle Knights - 209 points
Like the Warriors, the Knights were also a surprise packet in 2023, if only during the final three months of the season as the Hunter-based side came from the clouds to sneak into the finals.
The Knights, who open their season at home against the Raiders and then shape up for tough tests away to the Cowboys and at home to the Storm, do play the Storm, Warriors and Panthers twice out of last year's top eight though.
13. St George Illawarra Dragons - 210 points
Shane Flanagan's time in charge of the Dragons starts in the softer half of the draws, with the Red V only having to match up against last year's top eight 12 times.
That said, they do play the Panthers twice, as well as the Sharks and Roosters which will provide some stern tests.
They also open up with a double header in Queensland, playing the Titans and Dolphins over the opening two weeks on the road.
13. Canberra Raiders - 210 points
The Raiders, who kicks things off with a difficult trip to Newcastle, will then play the Tigers, Warriors (away) and Sharks (away) in a mixed start to the season.
Ricky Stuart's side are certainly in the softer half when it comes to strength of schedule, but they will need to be well ahead of the chasing pack for a spot in the top eight as the final rounds approach, with a trip to Townsville followed up with games against the Panthers and Roosters between Round 24 and 27.
12. Sydney Roosters - 211 points
Trent Robinson's side fell well short of expectations in 2023 and won't be able to use the draw as an excuse if the same is true in 2024.
The Roosters, while having to play the Storm, Rabbitohs and Broncos twice, have an otherwise more straightforward list of double up opposition, although it will be intriguing to see how the trip to Las Vegas impacts things.
After they return from Vegas, they play the Sea Eagles, then the Rabbitohs off a five-day turnaround.
11. Penrith Panthers - 212 points
The Panthers open up against the Storm, Eels, Broncos and Roosters in what will be a true test early on for the back-to-back-to-back premiers.
Outside of the start though, the reigning premiers have a relatively simple run, although it has to be noted they can't play themselves, so are never going to have the toughest schedule available.
10. Brisbane Broncos - 213 points
The Broncos were the side to go closest to breaking the Panthers' triple premiership run during 2023, and while they fell short, they have again been met with a dream draw.
They barely travel outside of Queensland early on, and while they have to face the Panthers and Storm twice, the rest of their double up list isn't quite as challenging as it really could be.
9. North Queensland Cowboys - 214 points
No matter what draw the Cowboys receive each year, their ticket to the finals is turning Townsville back into a fortress - they failed to do that in 2023, and will need to get on the front foot in 2024 when they have games there, playing three of their first four on the road.
The Cowboys open up against the Dolphins, and have a double-up list that features the Broncos and Panthers, but is otherwise a fairly soft one.
8. Wests Tigers - 218 points
The Tigers' job of moving away from the wooden spoon has been somewhat helped by not having an extremely difficult draw, although, by the same token, it's not super simple.
Of course, they can't play themselves so under the point-scoring model, they are never going to be coming in with the easiest draw.
The Tigers open up with a bye, then games against the Raiders, Sharks and Eels in a tough enough test early while the double up list features the Sharks, Raiders and Knights.
7. The Dolphins - 220 points
As will be tradition, the Dolphins' biggest games are going to come against their Queensland opposition, all of whom they play twice throughout 2024.
In what will be Wayne Bennett's final year as head coach, the Dolphins start off against the Cowboys and Dragons at home before an early bye.
6. Manly Sea Eagles - 222 points
The Sea Eagles come into the season hoping for a full season of fitness for Tom Trbojevic, but with a difficult start against the Rabbitohs, Roosters and Eels.
Manly will play the Panthers and Warriors out of last year's top four in what will be stern tests for Anthony Seibold's side who need results.
5. Parramatta Eels - 223 points
Parramatta's schedule will leave the blue and gold needing significant improvements on 2023 if they are going to make the finals, with the Eels clashing with the Broncos, Storm, Panthers, Rabbitohs and Roosters twice.
They kick off with the Bulldogs, but then face the Panthers away in what will be a very tough early examination.
4. Gold Coast Titans - 224 points
The Titans will face a difficult draw in 2024, playing the Broncos and Warriors out of the 2023 top four.
Rated as the fourth-toughest schedule in the competition, the Titans open up against the Dragons at home before having a bye, with the Bulldogs and Dolphins to follow.
Early momentum under new coach Des Hasler will be critical.
3. Canterbury Bulldogs - 227 points
Another year of sustained poor results hasn't helped the Bulldogs when it comes to the cards dealt in the 2024 season fixtures, with the Belmore-based outfit having the third-toughest draw.
The Bulldogs will play the Raiders, Sharks, Roosters, Knights and Warriors out of last year's top eight, but also are forced to clash with the Eels and Cowboys as part of their double up fixtures.
It's a difficult start to the campaign too - they kick off with back-to-back away games against the Eels and Sharks, and clash with the Rabbitohs, Roosters, Storm and Knights between Rounds 4 and 7.
2. South Sydney Rabbitohs - 230 points
The Rabbitohs will be less than impressed with their schedule for 2024. Despite missing the top eight, they have been dealt the rough end of the stick again with the second-toughest draw.
Their double up list features the Broncos, Storm and Panthers out of last year's top eight, and they play 13 games against last year's top eight.
1. Melbourne Storm - 231 points
The Storm have been ranked as the toughest draw in the 2024 season, playing 14 games against last year's top eight. The start to the season is about as tough as it gets too, playing the Panthers, Warriors, Knights and Broncos, although four of their first five are at home.
That is balanced out by four of their final five onj the road, with two trips to Sydney, before they finish the season in Townsville and Brisbane.
Melbourne have all of last year's top four opposition - the Broncos, Panthers and Warriors - on their double up list.