NRL changes finals system: Bye, bye McIntyre

Ryan O'Connell Columnist

By Ryan O'Connell, Ryan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    The newly formed Australian Rugby League Commission has wasted little time in flexing its muscle. In a move that will please many, the Commission has announced a fundamental change to the format of the Finals Series and will implement the changes for the 2012 NRL Premiership.

    On the day of the official season launch, the Commission has informed clubs that it has accepted a recommendation to move away from the McIntyre system, which had been a part of the Telstra Premiership since 1999.

    Whereas the McIntyre system ‘seeded’ the eight finalists so that the top four played the bottom four, the 2012 system will see the top four teams and bottom four teams split into separate pools in the first week.

    ARLC Chief Executive, Mr David Gallop, said today: “As the competition has become closer and the impact of ‘home and away’ finals matches even more significant, the system has become a source of increasing debate.”

    “The allocation of ‘home venues’ in the second week of the McIntyre system has been a particular concern. After going through a thorough process we are confident that this is the right time for this change.”

    The recommendation to the Commission follows an extensive review process conducted by ARLC General Manager of Football Operations, Mr Nathan McGuirk.

    “Over the past few months we have been conducting a review with clubs and with the recently formed Competition Committee,” Mr McGuirk said.

    “An overwhelming majority of clubs have shifted their support away from the McIntyre system and to one where the top four teams play each other in week one.

    “It offers greater protection for the top four teams and the possibility of even closer matches.

    “Each of the top four teams needs only to win two finals matches to reach the Grand Final, while the bottom four ranked teams must win three.

    “The Minor Premiers and Team 2 are each guaranteed two home games.”

    Apart from the obvious good news of the NRL moving away from a finals system that very few liked or understood, the most impressive aspect of this decision is the willingness and ability of the new Commission to act.

    There was no drawn out deliberating. No months of media speculation with little actual action. No posturing and preening from executives. No agenda driven speeches. No painful inertia.

    Instead, a decision was made, and then implemented immediately.

    It bodes well for the new Commission, and it sends a strong message to all involved in Rugby League: The Australian Rugby League Commission is here. The Australian Rugby League Commission is in control. And the Australian Rugby League Commission is willing to act.

    Make no mistake, whilst this may seem like a small step, it’s actually a monumental leap forward for the NRL and the game.

    Ryan O
    Ryan O'Connell

    Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.

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    The Crowd Says (85)

    • February 22nd 2012 @ 3:41pm
      Bigbaz said | February 22nd 2012 @ 3:41pm | ! Report

      Don’t tell me common sense is going to prevail in the NRL ! The sky may well fall in.

      • February 22nd 2012 @ 4:45pm
        Pete75 said | February 22nd 2012 @ 4:45pm | ! Report


        Hopefully the first of many victories for common sense…..

    • February 22nd 2012 @ 3:51pm
      Matt F said | February 22nd 2012 @ 3:51pm | ! Report

      Good. Like many others I never liked the McIntyre system and I’m very happy that it’s gone. It’s also great to see the ARLC acting so decisively. It’s a good sign for how they’ll run the game.

    • February 22nd 2012 @ 3:52pm
      Damo said | February 22nd 2012 @ 3:52pm | ! Report

      Great stuff. The terrible McIntyre system had gone and it looks like the new set up actually had some teeth.

    • February 22nd 2012 @ 3:53pm
      B.A Sports said | February 22nd 2012 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

      So in a nutshell they have decided to use the AFL system?

      • February 22nd 2012 @ 4:03pm
        Matt F said | February 22nd 2012 @ 4:03pm | ! Report

        Technically the NRL used it first when they changed to a top 8 system in the mid 90’s and the AFL originally used the McIntyre system. They both swapped systems at some point.

        • February 22nd 2012 @ 4:30pm
          B.A Sports said | February 22nd 2012 @ 4:30pm | ! Report

          I personally don’t really care who’s system it is or was I was just curious if these guys had come up with something new.

          To be honest it will only be a matter of time before people complain about this system as well. When two teams finish in equal 4th and one team faces and gets eliminated in the first week and the other wins and gets a week off. Or two teams finish equal on points for second, one team gets a home semi, the other team has to travel half way around the country.

          At the end of the day if you really wanted the best team for the year to win, you wouldn’t have finals. But Finals are exciting so we should just live with the results as they fall.

          But people will complain, its what we do.

          • February 22nd 2012 @ 4:50pm
            Pete75 said | February 22nd 2012 @ 4:50pm | ! Report


            That’s why for and against was invented. I personally wouldn’t have a problem with a team finishing equal on points but having a better for and against getting the advantage.

            It’s certainly more “just” than what happened to the Tigers last year.

            Finished 4th and won the in the first week of the final, only to be bundled out in the second week of the finals by a team that finished the regular season 6th and lost in the first week of the finals.

            • February 22nd 2012 @ 7:44pm
              B.A Sports said | February 22nd 2012 @ 7:44pm | ! Report


              Finals are finals, if you are good enough at the right time of the year you will beat whoever, where ever. In any given year the fourth and sixth place team could finish with the same win totals or be seperated by one win and that could be because the team who finished fourth had a much easier schedule. My point is it isn’t just perfomrance that finds a teams final place on the ladder.

              I look forwar dot the year where we have five or six teams in the top eight all on the same points and the uproar that creates because of the percieved unfairness with the advantage the higher placed team gets.

              For and against is not an ideal way to decide on positions on the ladder. How many wet weather games you play, how many of them you play against teams who everyone else is racking up 50 points against, how many teams you play with bad defences etc.. If the margin is nominal, its no more an indicator of which team is better than seeing who got more penalties, or which team made more line breaks.

              • February 22nd 2012 @ 8:12pm
                Nathan of Perth said | February 22nd 2012 @ 8:12pm | ! Report

                Then why not simply have a cup-style tournament instead of a league at all? Can’t really agree with the thinking.

                Across a 22 round season factors like weather and other externalities will balance out and the cream will rise to the top. The rest, well, you weren’t the best, so you didn’t earn it.

              • February 23rd 2012 @ 4:31pm
                Pete75 said | February 23rd 2012 @ 4:31pm | ! Report


                I take your point, but I’d contend that, if you look at for and againsts over the past years, you’d see that teams with a low against were excellent defensively (Melbourne springs to mind) and those with high for scores had great attacks (Tigers, North Queensland). While you might get a lucky 10-20 points difference through conditions (weather, vagaries of the draw), I reckon it balances itself out through the year as Nathan has suggested.

                Furthermore, I’m not sure there would be an uproar if a lot of teams finished equal on points. I reckon everyone would be pretty excited. I also reckon that, knowing the competition is so close, there would be increased emphasis on defensive teams to play a more attacking style, and for attacking teams to tighten up their defence in the interests of getting a for and against advantage. This would create it’s own little intrigues and be interesting to follow in and of itself.

                Just my opinion. In any event, I think most agree the new system is far superior to the Macintyre.

        • February 22nd 2012 @ 4:30pm
          Matt F said | February 22nd 2012 @ 4:30pm | ! Report

          Actually as TomC points out below, I was wrong. There is a small difference between what the AFL use and what the then ARL used in the mid 90’s. Though really, it’s a better system (at least I think it is) so who cares where it comes from?

      • Columnist

        February 22nd 2012 @ 4:11pm
        Ryan O'Connell said | February 22nd 2012 @ 4:11pm | ! Report

        Only on The Roar could someone try and turn this news into a Code War!

        • Roar Guru

          February 22nd 2012 @ 5:07pm
          The Cattery said | February 22nd 2012 @ 5:07pm | ! Report

          It’s not necessarily raised for code war purposes – there is slight difference between the NRL’s earlier top 8 system, and the current AFL system, so it’s just good to know whether the NRL have gone back to the original one, or have incorporated the AFL version, just for completeness of information.

          By the way, I wouldn’t necessarily say the current AFL system is better – both have strenghts and weaknesses.

          • February 22nd 2012 @ 8:18pm
            sheek said | February 22nd 2012 @ 8:18pm | ! Report

            AFL final system is infinitely superior. There’s no ‘maybes’, ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ about it.

            Think logic, think good judgement, think common sense, think wisdom. That it took so long for the NRL to adopt it doesn’t say much that is complimentary about them.

            The AFL system “rewards” the top 4 (1-4) as opposed to the bottom 4 (5-8). They get a second chance. Also, if good enough, they can win the premiership off only 2 finals games. Those ranked 5-8 require 3 finals games in a row to prevail.

            Rewards consistently good effort during the year.

            The problem with the NRL model is that the top team could be caught on a bad day & beaten by the team ranked 8, thus killing a lot of interest in the remainder of the finals.

            The AFL model is so superior, the wonder is it took so long for the NRL to fall into step…..

            • Roar Guru

              February 22nd 2012 @ 8:22pm
              The Cattery said | February 22nd 2012 @ 8:22pm | ! Report

              I was actually comparing the current AFL top 8 system, which the NRL has just adopted, with the NRL’s original top 8 system, before they adopted the McIntyre system. The differences between the two are very slight.

              • February 22nd 2012 @ 8:28pm
                sheek said | February 22nd 2012 @ 8:28pm | ! Report

                Cattery – my apologies then…..

            • February 22nd 2012 @ 8:26pm
              Nathan of Perth said | February 22nd 2012 @ 8:26pm | ! Report

              Or for that matter, why did they change TO that old system in the first place?

        • February 22nd 2012 @ 5:25pm
          Frank Lee Kennedy said | February 22nd 2012 @ 5:25pm | ! Report

          We are talking about an International and a local sport. Suppose the locals had a gutful being reminded about the status of their sport. No wonder they are the angry ones. They should not be, shall enjoy their sport until they play it at least, in 100 years time they will be just like a poor cousin. You cannot spread a sport internationally when you need oval grounds and 25 players to play a game.

        • Roar Guru

          February 22nd 2012 @ 6:19pm
          The Cattery said | February 22nd 2012 @ 6:19pm | ! Report

          ABC radio just confirmed then that it is the AFL system.

    • Columnist

      February 22nd 2012 @ 3:53pm
      Brett McKay said | February 22nd 2012 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

      AFL types will correct me here as required, but from memory, no ‘bottom 4’ teams have made the GF under this system?

      • February 22nd 2012 @ 4:01pm
        Matt F said | February 22nd 2012 @ 4:01pm | ! Report

        Never, at least as far as I can remember. Very, very few actually make it to Week 3

        • February 22nd 2012 @ 4:03pm
          Bigbaz said | February 22nd 2012 @ 4:03pm | ! Report

          As it should be.

      • February 22nd 2012 @ 4:21pm
        Ben from Brisbane said | February 22nd 2012 @ 4:21pm | ! Report

        pretty sure adelaide made the grand final from bottom four in 98, and carlton in 99

        • February 22nd 2012 @ 4:38pm
          Matt F said | February 22nd 2012 @ 4:38pm | ! Report

          That was under the McIntyre system though. The AFL changed to its curent system in 2000

          • February 22nd 2012 @ 8:18pm
            Ben from Brisbane said | February 22nd 2012 @ 8:18pm | ! Report

            oh sorry yeah you’re right, didn’t read the post properly

      • February 22nd 2012 @ 11:14pm
        Renegade said | February 22nd 2012 @ 11:14pm | ! Report

        The Bulldogs won the premiership in 1995 from 6th position using this system and i believe the dragons made the grand final in 96 from the bottom 4 as well.

        • February 22nd 2012 @ 11:53pm
          Stevo said | February 22nd 2012 @ 11:53pm | ! Report

          True. But to be fair though, the finals series in those years had no home advantage, just about every game was played at the SFS, which made it more likely for this to occur.

          It’ll be interesting to see if the same thing happens again. Given the propensity for at least one the teams placed 5-8 to come into the finals in great form, I’d say it’s going to happen almost as many years as it doesn’t.

    • February 22nd 2012 @ 3:57pm
      NF said | February 22nd 2012 @ 3:57pm | ! Report

      If anything the ‘AFL’ model is the original NRL model but typically the media doesn’t mention that.

      • February 22nd 2012 @ 4:22pm
        TomC said | February 22nd 2012 @ 4:22pm | ! Report

        The only difference between the AFL system and the old ARL top eight is that the AFL draw swaps over the ‘pools’ for the preliminary finals.

        So if every higher ranked team won every final, the prelims would be played between 1st and 3rd, and 2nd and 4th, rather than 1st and 4th, and 2nd and 3rd.

        Not sure if the ARLC is going with the old ARL system or the current AFL system.

        • February 22nd 2012 @ 4:26pm
          Matt F said | February 22nd 2012 @ 4:26pm | ! Report

          Current AFL system

          • Roar Guru

            February 23rd 2012 @ 8:29am
            Redb said | February 23rd 2012 @ 8:29am | ! Report

            The interesting thing is how long it took for the NRL to work out its the inferior system. The AFL trialled the McIntrye system when it first introduced a final 8 over a few years then ditched it.

            • February 23rd 2012 @ 9:26am
              Crosscoder said | February 23rd 2012 @ 9:26am | ! Report

              It’s not the decision of the NRL,but the ARLC.Get the facts right RedB.
              One thing about the game they don’t rush things.Rushing things at times,can be embarrassing.

              • Roar Guru

                February 23rd 2012 @ 9:32am
                Redb said | February 23rd 2012 @ 9:32am | ! Report

                Like Superleague.

        • February 23rd 2012 @ 3:49pm
          Drew said | February 23rd 2012 @ 3:49pm | ! Report

          In general the AFL/former ARL system is superior and has less anomalies. You get less combinations but I don’t think that’s too important. One thing I have picked up on, however…

          Like TomC said, the swap-over produces an interesting result for the Grand Final Qualifier… the minor premier is “rewarded” with a higher ranking opponent in week 3 (ie team 3 instead of team 4). Not sure if this is a fair thing. I know it’s been done to avoid repeat games and to ensure opponents in week 1 can still meet in the GF, hence the eppeal of the McIntyre system.

          I’d be keen to see a top 6, although if we expand to 18 teams this won’t happen.

      • February 22nd 2012 @ 5:28pm
        Jaceman said | February 22nd 2012 @ 5:28pm | ! Report

        “The media” ie above?? Please dont rewrite history…

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