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Here's how we can break the NRL ladder

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Expert
16th August, 2019
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2841 Reads

As we enter the final four rounds of the 2019 NRL premiership, attention is always firmly focussed on the ladder and the battles for the minor premiership and the final places inside the top eight. 2019 is no different.

The minor premiership is basically done and dusted, as the Melbourne Storm hold a three-win lead over the second-placed Roosters with just four games to play.

However, at the other end of the top eight, there’s a possible six-way battle for the final two places. Penrith are on 22 points, Brisbane 21, Cronulla and the Wests Tigers on 20, Warriors on 19 and the Newcastle Knights on 18.

One thing that hasn’t happened before, but is quite possible, is an occasion where two teams can be perfectly tied for points scored and conceded and also matched for tries, goals and field goals scored.

In fact, the NRL ladder before the start of the round was close enough to create this a number of times. Yes, it requires some creative score lines, nothing unbelievable mind you, however it is possible to ‘break’ the ladder and create a farcical situation for the NRL, whose rules around tied places on the ladder are laughable.

So let’s break things!

We need the following score lines to happen (and yes, I know a few of these matches have already been played, but please, humour me):

Round 22
Tigers def Sea Eagles 30-20
Broncos def Panthers 42-22
Titans def Eels 6-4
Raiders def Storm 24-8
Knights def Cowboys 20-18
Rabbitohs def Bulldogs 48-0
Sharks def Dragons 9-7
Roosters def Warriors 23-6

James Tedesco scores a try.

(Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

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Round 23
Bulldogs def Eels 8-6
Rabbitohs def Broncos 12-0
Panthers def Cowboys 54-18
Sharks def Warriors 14-12
Roosters def Dragons 14-6
Tigers def Knights 24-12
Raiders def Sea Eagles 34-22
Titans def Storm 34-10

Round 24
Bulldogs def Cowboys 28-16
Broncos def Eels 32-0
Rabbitohs def Warriors 47-0
Sea Eagles def Storm 32-12
Titans def Knights 16-10
Roosters def Panthers 12-4
Raiders def Sharks 30-10
Tigers def Dragons 29-17

Round 25
Rabbitohs def Roosters 18-3
Cowboys def Storm 28-12
Sea Eagles def Eels 10-7
Raiders def Warriors 30-26
Bulldogs and Broncos draw 29 all
Titans def Dragons 32-6
Panthers def Knights 49-10
Sharks def Tigers 12-10

Now with some of these scores compiled in a unique manner, the NRL ladder after Round 25 would look like this:

W D L Tries Goals F.Goals For Against Diff Points
Melbourne 17 0 7 95 94 3 571 366 205 36
Sydney 17 0 7 95 94 3 571 366 205 36
Canberra 17 0 7 95 94 3 571 366 205 36
South Sydney 17 0 7 95 94 3 571 366 205 36
Manly 14 0 10 84 85 2 508 435 73 30
Parramatta 12 0 12 75 77 6 460 472 -12 26
Penrith 12 0 12 75 77 6 460 472 -12 26
Brisbane 11 2 11 75 77 6 460 472 -12 26
Cronulla 12 0 12 75 77 6 460 472 -12 26
Wests Tigers 12 0 12 75 77 6 460 472 -12 26
Canterbury 9 1 14 57 49 1 327 535 -208 21
Newcastle 9 0 15 71 79 1 443 519 -76 20
Warriors 8 1 15 69 72 1 421 544 -123 19
Nth Queensland 8 0 16 67 63 3 397 530 -137 18
Gold Coast 8 0 16 72 65 0 418 559 -141 18
St George Illawarra 7 0 17 67 64 5 401 549 -148 16

So why go to all this effort? Purely to mock a rule regarding ladder positions within the NRL. The rule states that, in the event of two teams being tied on competition points, the manner to determine who is placed higher is based on the following criteria, and in this order:

  1. Points difference – the higher difference is placed higher
  2. Points conceded – the team that has conceded fewer points will be placed higher
  3. Tries scored – the team that has scored the most tries will be placed higher
  4. Goals scored – the team that has scored the most goals will be placed higher
  5. Field goals scored – the team that has scored the most field goals will be placed higher

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And if after all that, the teams are still tied, as they obviously are numerous times above, the next and final step is:

A coin toss.

Dunamius Lui of the Raiders

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Yes, that’s correct, a coin toss. It was actually close to happening last year for the minor premiership.

Going into the last game, the Roosters needed to win 38-12, scoring five tries, eight goals and two field goals to be tied perfectly with the Storm. Sydney won the game 44-10, scoring eight tries and six goals, giving them top spot on the ladder by a very slender margin.

But back to this broken ladder situation, the NRL has no protocol in place in the event that there’s more than one team tied perfectly. Questions would abound. Who tosses a coin first? Would every side tied perfectly have to have a coin toss against one another to determine winners and those eliminated, and then further coin tosses with the remaining sides to determine ladder positions?

It’s laughable to think a team’s season could be decided by a coin toss. Or the minor premiership, for that matter.

Surely a better system can be put forward before such a freak occurrence happens.

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