Posted by Dave on 14th September 2008

How the playoffs work

play off structure
Having a chat with some non rugby league following mates I realised that the playoff structure can be quite confusing for some so I thought I’d have a go at trying to explain it with the help of the accurate diagram above. After the initial explanation that the team who finishes top of the league don’t always win the league we can get into the nitty gritty of it.
The NRL uses something called the McIntyre system (I assume named after the person who came up with it) and the Superleague uses erm, something else. Both explained after the click.

The NRL and the McIntyre system
The starting point for the NRL playoffs is the league position for the top 8 teams.
 St George

Round 1 then sees the teams play off with the top 4 ranked teams getting home advantage. Then when the dust has settled all four winners continue on, the two highest ranked winners go through to round 3 and the two lowest go through to round 2. The two highest placed losers then go through to round 2 and we say goodbye to the two lowest placed losing teams.

Round 2 then gives us the following fixtures.
Game 1 – 3rd highest ranked winner V highest ranked loser
Game 2 – 4th highest ranked winner V 2nd highest ranked loser
Now there have been some complaints that the 3rd highest ranked winner gets a harder game the the 4 highest ranked, but I guess you’ve got to win the hard games whenever they turn up.
Round 3 then sees the return of the teams who didn’t play in round 2 for what are effectively the semi finals for the grand final and they play out as follows.
Highest ranked winner (Rd 1) V Winner game 1 (Rd 2)
2nd highest ranked winner (Rd 1) V Winner game 2 (Rd 2)
The Final is then contested by the winning teams from round 3 at the ANZ stadium on the 5th October.
Simpler really!
The Superleague System
The Superleague only takes the top 6 teams on to the play off stages and this years top 6 looked like this.

Round 1 sees all but the top two play with the fixtures being

Game 1 – 3rd V 6th
Game 2 – 4th V 5th
Round 2 is the first time the top two play each other and the winners from round 1 play each other so the fixtures look like
1st V 2nd 
Winner Game 1 V Winner Game 2 (highest placed team in the league gets home advantage)
Round 3 gives the loser of the 1st, 2nd game another chance to get to the final and can mean that the 1st and 2nd placed teams can play each other twice over the playoff series.
Winner 1st – 2nd game V Winner Game 1 – Game 2 game
Round 4 is then the final with the winner from the 1st 2nd play off game playing round 3’s winner. 
Easy as pie.
And that my friends is a straight forward guide to the play off system.
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