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Every team’s run home: Toughest schedule, predicted finish for rest of NRL season after Round 22

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Expert
2 days ago
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There’s only nine teams left in the race for the NRL finals with three rounds left that will determine more than just who misses the playoffs.

Careers are on the line for players, coaches and administrators as the 16 NRL teams jockey for position over the closing weeks of the schedule.

Premiers Penrith are now all but certain to finish first after the Cowboys lost to the Roosters 

North Queensland would have to win all three remaining matches with the Panthers going winless and make up a 90-point for-and-against differential.

South Sydney’s emphatic win over Parramatta was significant in the context of the finals race – the Rabbitohs have climbed over them to fifth with the Eels slipping to seventh ahead of the streaking Roosters. Ninth-placed Canberra, after a clunky win over the Dragons, is the only other team in the finals hunt after Manly’s loss on the Gold Coast.

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For-and-against records are likely to come into play in deciding final rankings – the Roosters hold a 150-point advantage on Canberra on that front in the race for eighth.

The Raiders have the easiest run home with Souths facing the toughest schedule. In working out the strength of schedule for each team in the closing rounds, it is calculated by a tally of the remaining opposition’s current competition points on the ladder. 

South Sydney have the highest cumulative total from their final opponents with 96 compared to Canberra’s 44, therefore they have the hardest strength of schedule. 

The best/worst case scenario for each team is based on the best possible mathematical outcome – basically if they won all their remaining games and the other results go that team’s way to the optimal degree. It is calculated by a standard winning margin in each match of 12 points (there could be much bigger swings in the for and against but then we’re getting into true trainspotter territory, not the cool Begbie kind).

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TeamStrength of schedule
Raiders44 (easiest)
Sharks48 (2nd easiest)
Titans48 (2nd)
Dragons48 (2nd)
Knights66 (5th)
Roosters68 (6th)
Tigers70 (7th)
Sea Eagles70 (7th)
Eels 72 (9th)
Panthers74 (10th)
Broncos78 (11th)
Bulldogs80 (12th)
Warriors80 (12th)
Cowboys80 (12th)
Storm82 (15th)
Rabbitohs96 (16th)

The run home for each team

1. Penrith (1st, 38 points, +298 differential) 

Run home: Rd 23 Rabbitohs (A), Rd 24 Warriors (H), Rd 25 Cowboys (A).

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Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 1st, could slide to second if they win no more and the Cowboys don’t lose and make up a 90-point differential. It ain’t happening.

Strength of schedule: 74 (10th easiest)

Predicted finish: 1st. You can all but lock it in.

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2. North Queensland (32pts, +208)

Run home: Rd 23 Warriors (H), Rd 24 Rabbitohs (A), Rd 25 Panthers (H).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 1-6. The Cowboys are all but guaranteed a top-four berth now.

Strength of schedule: 80 (12th easiest)

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Predicted finish: 3rd. They are three wins adrift of Penrith and the minor premiership would be handy but unless they upset Penrith in the final round, Cronulla will take second spot.

3. Cronulla (32pts, +137)

Run home: Rd 23 Sea Eagles (A), Rd 24 Bulldogs (H), Rd 25 Knights (A).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 2-6

Strength of schedule: 44 (2nd easiest) 

Predicted finish: 2nd. Top-four destiny is in their own hands. They have a soft schedule and should leapfrog the Cowboys to sneak into the top two.

Jesse Ramien of the Sharks is tackled.

Jesse Ramien of the Sharks is tackled. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

4. Melbourne (30pts, +211)

Run home: Rd 23 Broncos (A), Rd 24 Roosters (H), Rd 25 Eels (A).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 2-8.

Strength of schedule: 82 (15th easiest)

Predicted finish: 4th. They are no longer sure things to make the top four but the upset over Penrith has given them a better than even chance of making it. They will miss the top two in what will be their lowest regular-season placing since 2015 – that’s how successful the Storm machine has been in recent years.

5. South Sydney (28pts, +134)

Run home: Rd 23 Panthers (H), Rd 24 Cowboys (H), Rd 25 Roosters (A).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 2-9.

Strength of schedule: 96 (Toughest) 

Predicted finish: 7th. They have a tough draw to overcome to ensure their playoff spot – the win over Parra has opened the door for a potential sneak into fourth.

6. Brisbane (28pts, +69)

Run home: Rd 23 Storm (H), Rd 24 Eels (H), Rd 25 Dragons (A).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 2-9. 

Strength of schedule: 78 (11th easiest) 

Predicted finish: 5th. A top-four spot is a strong possibility after collecting the wooden spoon two years ago and placing 14th last year.

7. Parramatta (28pts, +28)

Run home: Rd 23 Bulldogs (H), Rd 24 Broncos (A), Rd 25 Storm (H).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 2-9

Strength of schedule: 72 (9th easiest) 

Predicted finish: 6th. Losing to Souths means they are unlikely to avoid the prospect of doing it the hard way in the finals from the bottom half of the bracket.

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

8. Sydney (26pts, +121)

Run home: Rd 23 Tigers (H), Rd 24 Storm (A), Rd 25 Rabbitohs (H).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 3-9.

Strength of schedule: 68 (6th easiest) 

Predicted finish: 8th. Five straight wins have enhanced the Roosters’ chances of sneaking into the eight. Two of their three games are at home. It still could come down to the final round against the Rabbitohs at the new Allianz Stadium opening match to decide their playoff destiny.

TeamBest-worst finish
1. Penrith1-2
2. North Qld1-6
3. Cronulla2-6
4. Melbourne2-8
5. South Sydney2-9
6. Brisbane2-9
7. Parramatta2-9
8. Sydney 3-9
9. Canberra6-11
10. Manly9-11
11. St George Illawarra9-11
12. Canterbury11-14
13. New Zealand12-16
14. Newcastle12-16
15. Gold Coast12-16
16. Wests12-16

9. Canberra (22pts, -31)

Run home: Rd 23 Knights (A), Rd 24 Sea Eagles (H), Rd 25 Tigers (A).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 6-11.

Strength of schedule: 44 (Easiest) 

Predicted finish: 9th. The Green Machine have four wins from their past five starts. They don’t have any higher-ranked teams on their schedule but the question remains if they can be relied upon to string four straight wins together to make the eight. They’ll probably slip up in one of their three starts to lower-ranked sides.

(Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

10. Manly (20pts, -28)

Run home: Rd 23 Sharks (H), Rd 24 Raiders (A), Rd 25 Bulldogs (A).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 9-11.

Strength of schedule: 70 (7th easiest) 

Predicted finish: 10th. Four straight losses and the Sea Eagles are petering out.

11. St George Illawarra (20pts, -132)

Run home: Rd 23 Titans (H), Rd 24 Tigers (A), Rd 25 Broncos (H).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 9-11.

Strength of schedule: 48 (2nd easiest) 

Predicted finish: 11th. With a relatively soft draw to finish the season, the Dragons should have been challenging for a playoff spot but their loss to the Raiders on Sunday was the final straw.

12. Canterbury (14pts, -141)

Run home: Rd 23 Eels (A), Rd 24 Sharks (A), Rd 25 Sea Eagles (H).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 11-14

Strength of schedule: 80 (12th easiest)

Predicted finish: 12th. Their recent form under interim coach Mick Potter has been a breath of fresh air, apart from Friday’s loss in Auckland.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - AUGUST 12: Shaun Johnson of the Warriors makes a break to score a try during the round 22 NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Canterbury Bulldogs at Mt Smart Stadium on August 12, 2022, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

13. New Zealand (12pts, -213)

Run home: Rd 23 Cowboys (A), Rd 24 Panthers (A), Rd 25 Titans (H).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 12-16

Strength of schedule: 80 (12th easiest)

Predicted finish: 13th. Let’s Gone Warriors? This season is long gone and poor old Stacey Jones has not only inherited a basket case, he’s been passed over for the opportunity to turn them around next year despite being a club legend who’s done the hard yards as an assistant coach. The big win over the Bulldogs was great to see for league-starved Auckland fans.

14. Newcastle (14pts, -252)

Run home: Rd 23 Raiders (H), Rd 24 Titans (A), Rd 25 Sharks (H).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 12-16

Strength of schedule: 66 (5th easiest) 

Predicted finish: 14th. They have not beaten any of the top-eight sides all year and are unlikely to rise any higher than their current predicament.

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

15. Gold Coast (8pts, -196)

Run home: Rd 23 Dragons (A), Rd 24 Knights (H), Rd 25 Warriors (A).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 12-16.

Strength of schedule: 48 (2nd easiest) 

Predicted finish: 15th. Avoiding the spoon and the sack will be the two main missions for Justin Holbrook. They have Newcastle and the Warriors on the schedule but dodging the spoon but it may not be enough to save the coach’s skin.

16. Wests (10pts, -213)

Run home: Rd 23 Roosters (A), Rd 24 Dragons (H), Rd 25 Raiders (H).

Best-worst mathematical case scenario: 11-16

Strength of schedule: 70 (7th easiest) 

Predicted finish: 16th. Caretaker coach Brett Kimmorley needs to jag a couple of upsets to ensure the wooden spoon won’t be housed at Concord after Round 25. 

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