Which teams have the most favourable schedules, which have the hardest path to the finals and who gets the best and worst stretches during the year?
It’s getting closer. With the dust settling from the Nines tournament and trial games underway, the countdown to kick off draws closer by the day.
No doubt many of you will have had a look at the draw to plan your annual leave days for that round 8 game at HBF Park in Perth, but how well did your club fare with the draw?
Which teams scored the easiest draws and which copped the hardest. For this edition of The Numerical Advantage, we will rank each clubs strength of schedule based on their opponents’ results last year.
Quick out of the box
These sides have a favourable start to the season from the schedule makers
Raiders play just one top eight team (Manly, rd. 4) from last year before round 11 (Roosters) and should get off to a very good start.
Tigers first four games against bottom 8 sides (Dragons, Knights, Bulldogs, Warriors)
Eels do not play a team that finished higher than 8th until round 10. Play 5 of their first 6 against bottom 5 teams from last year with only Wests (9th) sandwiched in between and should join the Raiders as early-season flyers.
Possible slow starters
These teams will need to be sharp early to stay at .500
Titans 4 of their first 5 games against Top 8 sides, including the top 2 (Roosters rd.4, Storm rd.5)
Rabbitohs first 4 games against last years Top 8 (Sharks, Broncos, Roosters, Storm) including the dreaded Roosters / Storm back to back (rds. 3&4)
Panthers 4 tough games in their 1st four rounds against Top 8 sides (Roosters, Storm, Broncos, Raiders) with only the Dragons (rd. 2) providing any respite.
The run home
Two clubs have easier projected finishes to the season to secure a finals berth or momentum while the Roosters face a real test heading into finals.
Eels finish with 3 straight against bottom 8 teams from a year ago (Dragons, Knights, Panthers).
Roosters have six straight games against Top 8 sides to finish the year (Sea Eagles, Eels, Sharks, Storm, Rabbitohs and Broncos. Will they have anything left in the tank come finals time?
Sea Eagles finish with 4 in a row against bottom 8 sides (Knights, Warriors, Panthers, Titans) and should finish the year strong.
Panthers – rounds 19-23 play the bottom five teams from a year ago (Titans, Warriors, Dragons, Cowboyw and Bulldogs) and could well go5-0 over that stretch.
Tigers rd 16-18, play the top three from a year ago (Storm, Roosters, Bunnies). Capping it off the Storm and Roosters games are away games. Simply a horror stretch for the Tiges.
Dragons vying with Tigers for the title of horror stretch, the Dragons could be deep in the hole after their rds. 3-8 run against the Raiders, Eels, Warriors, Rabbitohs, Roosters, Storm, with only the Warriors looking a reasonable chance to pick up a win for the Red-V.
Where do we play this week?
Speaking of the Tiges, one strange quirk of this seasons draw is the Wests Tigers embarking on a vagabond journey in 2020, with home games at 5 different venues:
Leichardt, Campbelltown, Bathurst, Scully Park and SunCorp (Magic Round)
You would have to believe this is going to make it hard for the Tigers to amount any sort of Home field consistency and it will be interesting to watch if their home winning % dips below their 5 year average of 45% and if they can even best their previous low of 4 home wins in both 2015 & 2017.
Overall Strength of Schedule Rankings
Each team’s schedule ranked on their opponents result from last season
SoS is scored awarding 16 points for a game against the team that finished 1st in 2019, 15 against second, and so on down to 1pt against the team that finished 16th.
|Rank||Club||Overall SoS Score|
|Rank||Club||Overall SoS Score|
The Raiders, Eels, Sea Eagles and Tigers have been the biggest beneficiary of the draw, with the Raiders incredibly favourable run to start the season putting them in prime position to be top of the table come mid-season.
They look a near-lock for another top four finish. Parramatta have their season bookended start and finish with favourable stretches and if they are within striking distance with 3 rounds to go, they should carry some real momentum into the finals on the back of what should be 3 straight wins (Dragons, Knights, Panthers).
While the Tigers may have scored well on the SoS score they also have the most nomadic of seasons and have the aforementioned horror stretch to contend with as well. Surely not another 9th place finish in the offing….
The middle pack sees Cronulla, Souths, Penrith, Newcastle, Brisbane along with last years top two –Melbourne and the Roosters. While the Storm and Tri-Colours should be near the top of the table, the other mid-tier sides will need to make the most of their home games, with a couple of sneaky away wins, to finish top eight.
The Sharks also have all their home games at Jubilee Park and it will be interesting to see if they can turn this into a home ground advantage or if its going to be tough sledding for the next two years until Shark Park’s redevelopment is complete.
At the wrong end of the scale, the Cowboys and the Dragons have drawn the short straws. Rounds 3 through 8 will likely decide the Dragons fate with a god awful run (Raiders, Eels, Warriors, Rabbitohs, Roosters, Storm) that they will struggle to pick up more than 1 win from, while the Cowboys will be hoping their new stadium becomes a home fortress with the Raiders (twice), Storm, Roosters, Rabbitohs and Eels (yes, all of last year’s top 5) coming to visit the house that JT built.
Such is the luck of the draw
As always, thanks for reading and keep your eyes open for my upcoming statistically-based ladder projections where The Numerical Advantage will predict the outcome of every single game. Can we top last year’s 62.83% rate from Round 10? Can we predict the Grand Finalists and the Premier for a second consecutive year? We shall see.
Trust in the data!