SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 01: Sam Williams of the Raiders celebrates at full time during the round 12 NRL match between the Canterbury Bulldogs and the Canberra Raiders at ANZ Stadium on June 1, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

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

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.

first four games against bottom 8 sides (Dragons, Knights, Bulldogs, Warriors)

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.

finish with 3 straight against bottom 8 teams from a year ago (Dragons, Knights, Panthers).

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.

Great Stretch

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.

Horror 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.

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.

RankClubOverall SoS Score
T-2ndSea Eagles198



RankClubOverall SoS Score
T-2ndSea Eagles198

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!


  1. Just goes to show that you can prove anything with Statistics. Thankfully, reality pays little heed of such number crunching no matter how extensive or diligent such work might be.

    The Storm will be minor premiers once again.

  2. I believe the best way to calculate which teams have the most favourable schedules, in my expertise opinion, would be in the form of how many games each club play against last seasons top eight clubs in the last eight games leading into the finals.
    According to this story, looks like Sydney Roosters have the most difficult draw.

  3. The Rabbitohs have had the toughest draw for the past 2 seasons yet still finished 3rd.
    Minor Premiers this season for sure.

  4. 3hats February 28, 2020 at 4:43 pm
    The Rabbitohs have had the toughest draw for the past 2 seasons yet still finished 3rd.
    Minor Premiers this season for sure.

    Souths Sombreros need to take it out otherwise Bennet May go a year early.

  5. If you wanted to do a fairer draw? You’d have the top 8 teams from the previous year, playing each other twice. At the start & near the end of the regular season . The bottom 8 teams from the previous year , playing each other twice at the start & near the end of the regular season . Then top 8 & bottom 8 teams just playing each other once during the middle of the year. With Just a few of the top 8 & bottom 8 teams playing each other a second time , to make up the number of rounds as now, if wanted?
    Each year, that way of doing the draw may slightly vary the top 8 & bottom 8 teams? It depends on how well they go? If you want to actually change who may make the top 8 each year & make it more interesting, with better/ closer match ups. That is the way to go.
    However, the NRL has never really been about fairness, getting better match ups , or changing the top 8.

  6. How is that fair ClownOfDivide. Talk about a ridiculous comment. Why a should the wooden spooners or any other dud team like the Pink Penrith Pansies play all the weak teams twice and falsley qualify in the semis. Wake up!

    The only fair draw is we have 22 teams and play each other once. Or twelve teams and play each other twice. But we dont.

  7. It’s absolutely fair.
    As each year you may see a slight change to the top 8. You get the better teams from the year before playing each other twice, for better games perhaps? You get the Lower teams from the year before teams playing each other twice, for closer games .
    You still have 11 games where the top 8 & bottom 8 teams from any one year play each other once & a few times twice.
    Those games would decide who makes the top 8 most of the time.
    It makes for a much closer competition, the top 8 may change from year to year. At least a little.
    Gives a bit of a leg up to any teams from the lower half in any one year. Those teams may also change from year to year .
    There’s nothing better for the competition & each team than that. If it shakes things up each year? That’s exactly what you want!

  8. Kev…
    The broadcasters would love that type of draw!!!
    Closer games & all the top 8 from each year play each other twice!!!
    I will send in the suggestion to to the broadcast companies. As they’d be behind it 100% guaranteed. They may also pressure the NRL to go that way.

  9. So if they’re the best teams, they’d still make the finals . They’d still be playing the teams from the previous years bottom 8 in 11 games . Out of 25 games . What’s the problem?
    I don’t think you’re right anyway. Most supporters want to see the teams they support make the finals.
    So you think you’re Nuggets couldn’t make it every year, if it was even a little harder to do every year.? If they’re so great, they should win through any way.

  10. You have no idea. So you have to criticise others who come up with any ideas. You don’t even come up with any valid points of criticism.
    The other stuff you’re saying is just fluff.
    I certainly enjoyed the Newcastle & Nuggets game . How about you?

  11. Yeah it was magnificent seeing the full knights 1st grade squad dismantle a roosters side with not one player from last years GF team in it. Funny

  12. ClownOfDivide, the NRL aren’t interested in other peoples idea, so why would they bother listening to my idea of expansion.
    One thing is certain though, they would never listen to your numbnuttaa idea.clown. hahahaha

  13. My idea for a 22 rounds season to make it fair but wont be done as everyone seems to think the draw for the whole year has to be done before the season starts:

    – Rounds 1 – 15 each team plays each team once.
    – (possibly a break in the NRL season for Origin and internationals)
    – The draw for the last 7 games is based on the ladder at that point:
    1st on the ladder plays all the even teams from 4 to 16
    2nd on the ladder plays all odd teams from 3 to 15

    EOD’s idea is what the AFL have been doing with their draw for the last few years. They group the ladder from the previous year into 3 pools of 6 and you play your pool twice I believe and every other team once.

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