McIntyre System to live in dark recesses of NRL history

Chris Chard Columnist

By Chris Chard, Chris Chard is a Roar Expert

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    The bittersweet realisation that a grand final win can only be followed by a slide down the ladder. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

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    Kenneth Gordon McIntyre OBE was a man of many talents: author, lawyer, politician, historian, mathematician. It is with some shame, then, that his legacy in Australian popular culture appears to be inextricably linked with that of a maligned rugby league finals system.

    And by maligned, I mean intensely despised.

    Much like the night time Grand Finals that sent millions of small children to bed in tears at half time, the McIntyre finals system was a phenomena that appeared to only have the support of a powerful minority.

    Here was a finals system so unloved that in its demise it had become the flatulent, native fauna eating, one-eared tom cat that nobody in the neighbourhood wanted to claim ownership of.

    This can be seen by the press reports this week, all seemingly flick passing and handballing ownership of the system.

    The papers have spoken of the NRL from 2012 adopting the ‘AFL’s final system,’ by which of course they mean the 95 ARL finals system.

    In turn the NRL has dumped ‘it’s’ McIntyre system, despite the fact that the AFL and the VFL had in the past used versions of McIntyre previous to the NRL adopting it. For the casual sports fan, it’s all a bit confusing.

    Fitting, as confusion seemed to be the overwhelming reaction to the McIntyre system. Many a frustrating September was spent rehashing the finals framework to inattentive work colleagues, trying to explain what next week’s games would be.

    To which the only true answer was that ‘you’ll have to wait and see’.

    This was an annoyance for spectators, but must have been a logistical and psychological nightmare for players and coaches.

    Even the most cynical fan would have to feel sorry for the 3rd-6th placed losing sides, sitting around a TV at the leagues club following their match not knowing whether they should be ripping into training, or ripping into a carton of cold beers and fancy dress clothes.

    Sports fans, by and large, crave simplicity, and rugby league can lay claim to being one of the simplest games of all. But, to be simple is to be great, and taking your finals system from a former mathematician who liked to explore Portuguese naval history in his spare time is probably over complicating things a little bit.

    This is not to say intelligent minds should be driven away from rugby league. It’s just that, as lifelong Manly fan and world renowned author Thomas Keneally learned after the lukewarm reception to his ‘Blow that Whistle’ television ad, sometimes you just have to give the proles what we want.

    So Mr McIntyre, on behalf of the rugby league fraternity, I would like to acknowledge your very successful life and crazy Portuguese conspiracy theories.

    You were indeed a man who succeeded in many fields.

    However, for mine, your finals system will serve a special place in the dark recesses of my rugby league memory, and will keep good company their with unlimited interchange, the 1997 NSW Origin jerseys and Wollongong Showground greyhound track.

    And it looks to me like this time, the fans have beaten the system.

    Chris Chard
    Chris Chard

    Chris Chard is a sports humour writer commenting on the often absurd nature of professional sport. A rugby league fan boy with a good blend of youth and experience taking things one week at a time, Chris has written for The Roar since 2011. Tweet him @Vic_Arious

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    The Crowd Says (57)

    • February 24th 2012 @ 11:42am
      oikee said | February 24th 2012 @ 11:42am | ! Report

      The worse part about this story, the people running rugby league did not have the brainpower to get rid of old mac, it was like the farm was running the game. It was really.
      A few good men come along and BAM, Kapoo, wholey kamoley batman, what was that? The IC baby, the IC, it struck with a inteeligence we have not seen before in ruggy league. Mate, just imagine, just imagine how fast that cornerpost would have flown if we had this mob running the game years ago, why that corner post would have flown to the moon Alice.

      No complaints here, all good.

      • Roar Guru

        February 24th 2012 @ 1:01pm
        The Barry said | February 24th 2012 @ 1:01pm | ! Report

        bloody dinoaurs !

        kapoo ! Ruggy League !

    • February 24th 2012 @ 12:34pm
      chrisc101 said | February 24th 2012 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

      I think people understimate the major flaw in the old ARL system, in that in week one the top 4 will go out and belt each other. It is almost an advantage to come 5th over 4th!

    • February 24th 2012 @ 12:38pm
      Cugel said | February 24th 2012 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

      Once you’ve happily accepted that 8th, who usually have mediocre seasons (sometimes even losing more games than winning) can now suddenly be premiers, constant quibbling over how that may be achieved seems like a waste of time.

    • February 24th 2012 @ 12:56pm
      JVGO said | February 24th 2012 @ 12:56pm | ! Report

      Did Manly win a premiership because of the McIntyre system? They must have. Everything in RL is so Manly could win another undeserving premiership. Oh that’s right wasn’t the biggest upset in the system when the Dogs beat Manly from 48th place on the ladder. Either manly (or Melbourne) win an undeserved premiership or they are humiliated despite everything being stacked in their favour. McIntyre was just another Sea Eagles supporter, or Broncos or Melbourne maybe. persoally I’d prefer a system where the sharks have a possibility of winning from 17th place, if McIntyre can think one up.

      • February 24th 2012 @ 1:31pm
        Will Sinclair said | February 24th 2012 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

        What a brilliant rant!

        I have no idea what you’re talking about… but still loved the rant!

        • February 24th 2012 @ 2:33pm
          Jaredsbro said | February 24th 2012 @ 2:33pm | ! Report

          I think that pretty much sums up both your intelligence and the consistency of your perspective on this. I love Rugby League too much to let this dampen my support, but now the system’s less fair. And in time we’ll get an AFL scenario where the top 4 are really high-money clubs and everyone else suffers…good work turning off the life-support, mate!

          • February 24th 2012 @ 4:19pm
            Andrew said | February 24th 2012 @ 4:19pm | ! Report

            NRL can never be like that while State of Origin has such a big influence on the table. Just too many players missing during the middle of the season (not to mention player burn out), which makes a difference, even if it’s only 2 points, it’s usually the difference between finishing in the top 4, or even the top 8.

            • February 24th 2012 @ 4:37pm
              Jaredsbro said | February 24th 2012 @ 4:37pm | ! Report

              That’s an interesting take on it, thanks for that by the way 🙂 I’m not so sure though. State of Origin may change a few results, but what I’ve seen of late is that many teams rise to the challenge. Here the Broncos are a little abnormal, in that many of the Sydney clubs with two or three Origin players say have got more of an advantage vs Brisbane, which usually has many more than three when it comes to the last few years.

              Whereas with the McIntyre system everyone in the top 4 has the same disadvantage in the first week…the outcome however depends on those who take advantage of it…usually teams like Paramatta or the Warriors with more to lose than simply a chance to progress or to win.

      • February 24th 2012 @ 2:58pm
        Nathan of Perth said | February 24th 2012 @ 2:58pm | ! Report

        Just face the facts, the Manly Sea-Eagles are the closest thing Australia has to a native Nazi Party and are probably the epitome of pure evil.


        • February 24th 2012 @ 5:40pm
          JVGO said | February 24th 2012 @ 5:40pm | ! Report

          Is that why Tony Abbott is the MP for Manly? makes sense I guess.

          • February 24th 2012 @ 8:35pm
            Nathan of Perth said | February 24th 2012 @ 8:35pm | ! Report

            My God, it all makes sense now. The tri-lateral commission engineered this!

      • Columnist

        February 24th 2012 @ 5:41pm
        Chris Chard said | February 24th 2012 @ 5:41pm | ! Report

        Didn’t manly win because David Manson didn’t call Matthew Rdge held?

        • February 24th 2012 @ 8:11pm
          JVGO said | February 24th 2012 @ 8:11pm | ! Report

          That’s just one time Chris, what about all the other times?

    • February 24th 2012 @ 1:36pm
      Michael said | February 24th 2012 @ 1:36pm | ! Report

      I don’t understand the criticism that no team outside the top four has won the AFL premiership. This is a sporting competition at the elite level, the teams that perform consistently well throughout the whole season have earned the benefits of finishing in the top four. If a team is genuinely good enough to come from outside the top four and when, then good on them – it will be a great fairytale story for all the fans to enjoy. But they shouldn’t be given help to get there at the expense of the the more consistent teams. Besides, a non-top four team winning the comp – and it will happen one day – will be even more of an achievement than it is today. The McIntyre system rewarded mediocrity over excellence. It was the wrong message to associate with an elite competition and the NRL should be praised for getting rid of it.

      • Columnist

        February 24th 2012 @ 2:46pm
        Brett McKay said | February 24th 2012 @ 2:46pm | ! Report

        Michael, when I mention this, it’s not as a criticism, but rather as a pointer to the unpredictability the McIntyre System brought. I do agree that this is elite sport, and designed to find the best team in the comp, and even that this new method is quite clearly geared toward the top four.

        And that’s fine to do that, but if what a code wants is for the champs to come from the top four, then why bother with a top eight? Why not just play two semis and a final??

        • February 24th 2012 @ 4:15pm
          Nathan of Perth said | February 24th 2012 @ 4:15pm | ! Report

          Whatever the benefits of unpredictability, the potential injustices are worse. It devalues the regular season as a whole.

    • February 24th 2012 @ 2:06pm
      Jaredsbro said | February 24th 2012 @ 2:06pm | ! Report

      No absolute bollicks 😉 It’s fine to criticise the old system, but what we’re not really getting at here is the fact that the old system actually worked. You see I”m not nornally the type of guy who suports something just because of tradition (tho it is a very good reason to find in why we ought to do things) but the old system worked! It was complicated very true, but it allowed great expansion for the code…not just a re-modelled knock-out system where the trick is to be in the top 4.

      Last year I came to the conclusion that the AFL’s current system is too generous on the top 4…which almost always disadvantages one of the main markets/growth markets for the code…this will make it harder to expand the game, pretty simple really.

      • February 24th 2012 @ 3:48pm
        Pete75 said | February 24th 2012 @ 3:48pm | ! Report

        ” too generous on the top 4″


        So why bother actually winning games during the season? Scrape into eighth position being mediocre all season and then get an easy ride through the finals.

        I don’t mean to be a code warrior, but the issue of a few teams regularly winning the comp is less of a concern in the NRL than in the AFL. The NRL competition is a lot more even, whereas in the AFL, there’s the top 3-4 teams and then daylight to the rest.

        Don’t blame the finals system for that….

        • February 24th 2012 @ 4:04pm
          Nathan of Perth said | February 24th 2012 @ 4:04pm | ! Report

          Yeah, this makes the season proper more relevant.

        • February 24th 2012 @ 4:47pm
          Jaredsbro said | February 24th 2012 @ 4:47pm | ! Report

          I’m not blaming it…not really! But it isn’t particularly helping. What I’d rather not have in Rugby League is a straight knock-out, or something closely resembling it…otherwise as you say there’s no point playing well until you’re in the eight at the end of the season.

          But also the idea that the code is relying on these top 4 teams by in large goes against the notion that the comps supposed to be national or in the NRL’s case All-Australasian…this means some markets will miss out with a realistic chance. It improves chances, it doesn’t give anything to anyone a la the Warriors last year!

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