It’s an argument as old as finals footy – is the week off in the finals a help or hindrance?
Some will cite the importance of momentum, saying the battle-hardening of players is an advantage.
Others would love a week off. Niggling injuries can be given a chance to heal, and it’s one less game you can possibly lose and see your season ended.
But what does history say?
I decided to look at weeks off through the NRL era (1998-2013), and whether teams with weeks off have gone on to win the premiership.
This period has seen three finals systems – the bizarre ten-team system of 1998, the much-maligned McIntyre system of 1999-2011, and the current system.
All of these systems have involved two winners coming into the preliminary finals from a week off. In addition, the 1998 system had the first and second teams given a week off in the first week, before joining the action in the second.
So, do teams with the week off generally do well the next week? Well, they’re bang on 50 per cent. In the NRL era, exactly half of them win. 17 wins, 17 losses. Having a week off gives you exactly no advantage (or disadvantage).
Of course, winning this weekend isn’t the be-all and end-all. There’s a little thing called the grand final next weekend.
In the NRL era, 10 of the 16 premierships (including the Storm’s two stripped titles) have been won by teams after having a week off (62.5 per cent).
If we narrow the stats to only the years where one grand finalist had the week off and the other didn’t, the teams with the week off have won six grand finals from nine (66.7 per cent).
Even more intriguing is how this has become a massive trend recently. The last team to win the grand final without a week off was the Broncos way back in 2006.
So what can we say?
Don’t be surprised to see the Roosters or Bulldogs win this weekend, but if the big one is Roosters versus Panthers or Rabbitohs versus Bulldogs, the team who had the week off has the advantage.