Toughest schedule, expected end for rest of NRL season after Round 21

There is one month left in the regular season, four weeks that will more than just determine who misses the playoffs.

Careers hang in the balance for players, coaches and administrators as the NRL’s 16 teams vie for position in the final weeks of the schedule.

Premiers Penrith are now almost certain to finish first after holding their six-point gap over second-placed Cowboys, bouncing back from their eels upset by a controversial win at Canberra.

Parramatta’s resounding victory over Manly was huge in the context of the race for the final – the Eels climbed above Brisbane to fifth with the Broncos slipping to seventh after dropping to the Roosters.

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Records for and against are likely to come into play to decide the final standings – the Roosters hold a more than 100 advantage over Canberra on this front in the hunt for eighth place and are now two points clear of the Raiders as well as the Green Machine will likely need to win all four games to stand a chance.

The Sharks have the easiest homecoming with Souths facing the toughest schedule.

In establishing the schedule strength for each team in the closing rounds, it is calculated by a tally of the opposition’s current competition points remaining on the ladder.

South Sydney have the highest aggregate total of their last four opponents with 122 against Cronulla’s low of 58, so the Bunnies have the toughest strength on the schedule.

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

Crew Calendar strength
the Sharks 58 (easiest)
Raiders 64 (2nd easiest)
knights 66 (3rd)
Dragons 66 (4th)
sea ​​eagles 74 (5th)
knights 86 (6th)
Broncos 90 (7th)
bulldogs 90 (8th)
Warriors 92 (9th)
Eels 94 (10th)
tigers 96 (11th)
Roosters 96 (12th)
Cowboys 100 (12th)
Panthers 108 (14th)
Storm 118 (15th)
Rabbits 122 (16th)

The return home for each team

1. Penrith (1st, 38 points, differential +314)

Run home: Rd 22 Storm (H), Rd 23 Rabbitohs (A), Rd 24 Warriors (H), Rd 25 Cowboys (A).

Best math case scenario: 1st, could slide as low as second if they don’t win again and the Cowboys don’t lose.

Calendar strength: 108 (14th easiest)

Expected end: 1st. You can do anything but lock it.

2. North Queensland (32pts, +222)

Run home: Rd 22 Roosters (A), Rd 23 Warriors (H), Rd 24 Rabbitohs (A), Rd 25 Panthers (H).

Best math case scenario: 1-6. The Cowboys are now guaranteed a place in the top four.

Calendar strength: 100 (13th easiest)

predicted to end: 2nd. They are three wins behind Penrith and minor premiership would come in handy, but their main aim must be to keep Cronulla from second place.

3. Cronulla (30pts, +113)

Run home: Rd 22 Tigers (A), Rd 23 Sea Eagles (A), Rd 24 Bulldogs (H), Rd 25 Knights (A).

Best math case scenario: 2-8

Calendar strength: 58 (easiest)

Expected end: 3rd. The fate of the front four is in their hands after the win over the Dragons on Saturday night. Despite the looser schedule, they need the Cowboys to slip twice to squeeze into the top two.

Connor Tracey is hit high in a tackle by Tariq Sims. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

4. Melbourne (28pts, +195)

Run home: Rd 22 Panthers (A), Rd 23 Broncos (A), Rd 24 Roosters (H), Rd 25 Eels (A).

Best math case scenario: 2-9.

Calendar strength: 118 (15th easiest)

Expected end: 6th. They are no longer sure of making the top four, especially with Ryan Papenhuyzen out for the year. They will miss out on the top two in what will be their lowest regular-season finish since 2015 – that’s been the success of the Storm machine in recent years.

5.Parramatta (28pts, +54)

Run home: Rd 22 Rabbitohs (H), Rd 23 Bulldogs (H), Rd 24 Broncos (A), Rd 25 Storm (H).

Best math case scenario: 2-9

Calendar strength: 94 (10th easiest)

Expected end: 4th. Beating Manly was huge and now they should avoid the prospect of doing it the hard way in the final from the bottom half of the table.

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

6. Sydney South (26pts, +108)

Run home: Rd 22 Eels (A), Rd 23 Panthers (H), Rd 24 Cowboys (H), Rd 25 Roosters (A).

Best math case scenario: 2-10.

Calendar strength: 122 (hardest)

Expected end: 8th. They have a tough draw to overcome to secure their playoff spot – this weekend’s clash with Parra will have a huge say in whether or not they succeed.

7. Brisbane (26pts, +51)

Run home: Rd 22 Knights (H), Rd 23 Storm (H), Rd 24 Eels (H), Rd 25 Dragons (A).

Best math case scenario: 2-10.

Calendar strength: 90 (7th easiest)

Expected end: 5th. A top-four finish is a strong possibility after reclaiming the wooden spoon two years ago and finishing 14th last year. Back-to-back losses to the Tigers and Roosters could have ramifications in the race for fourth place.

8.Sydney (24pts, +107)

Run home: Rd 22 Cowboys (H), Rd 23 Tigers (H), Rd 24 Storm (A), Rd 25 Rabbitohs (H).

Best math case scenario: 3-11.

Calendar strength: 96 (11th easiest)

Expected end: 9th. Four straight wins boosted the Roosters’ chances of sneaking into the eight. Three of their last four games have been at home. It could still come down to the final round against the Rabbitohs in the new Allianz Stadium opener to decide their playoff fate.

Crew Best-worst finish
1.Penrith 1-2
2.North Queensland 1-6
3. Cronulla 2-8
4.Melbourne 2-9
5. Parramatta 2-9
6. South Sydney 2-10
7. Brisbane 2-10
8.Sydney 3-11
9. Canberra 6-12
10. Manly 7-13
11. St. George Illawarra 7-13
12. Canterbury 10-16
13.Newcastle 10-16
14. New Zealand 10-16
15. West 12-16
16. Cote d’Or 12-16

9. Canberra (20pts, -33)

Run home: Rd 22 Dragons (H), Rd 23 Knights (A), Rd 24 Sea Eagles (H), Rd 25 Tigers (A).

Best math case scenario: 6-12

Calendar strength: 64 (2nd easiest)

Expected end: 7th. The odds are dwindling for the Green Machine to return to the Finals after three wins in their last four starts. They don’t have any higher ranked teams on their schedule, but the question remains whether they can be counted on to string together four straight wins to make it all eight.

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

10. Manly (20pts, -8)

Run home: Rd 22 Titans (A), Rd 23 Sharks (H), Rd 24 Raiders (A), Rd 25 Bulldogs (A).

Best math case scenario: 7-13

Calendar strength: 74 (5th easiest)

Expected end: 10th. Three straight losses would prove to be the difference between the finals or the final round being the end of their season.

11. St Georges Illawarra (20pts, -130)

Run home: Rd 22 Raiders (A), Rd 23 Titans (H), Rd 24 Tigers (A), Rd 25 Broncos (H).

Best math case scenario: 7-13

Calendar strength: 66 (4th easiest)

Expected end: 11th. With a relatively weak draw to end the season, the Dragons should be tough for a playoff berth, but don’t bet on this inconsistent team rising higher. Their deplorable pros and cons are also a huge factor to overcome.

12. Canterbury (14pts, -117)

Run home: Rd 22 Warriors (A), Rd 23 Eels (A), Rd 24 Sharks (A), Rd 25 Sea Eagles (H).

Best math case scenario: 10-16

Calendar strength: 90 (8th easiest)

Expected end: 12th. Their recent form under interim coach Mick Potter has been a breath of fresh air.

Dominique Young. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

13. Newcastle (14pts, -234)

Run home: Rd 22 Broncos (A), Rd 23 Raiders (H), Rd 24 Titans (A), Rd 25 Sharks (H).

Best math case scenario: 10-16

Calendar strength: 86 (6th easiest)

Expected end: 14th. They won their grand final on Sunday with victory over the Tigers ensuring they won’t get the wooden spoon. They haven’t beaten any of the top eight teams of the year and are unlikely to rise higher than their current situation.

14. New Zealand (12pts, -237)

Run home: Rd 22 Bulldogs (H), Rd 23 Cowboys (A), Rd 24 Panthers (A), Rd 25 Titans (H).

Best math case scenario: 12-16

Calendar strength: 92 (9th easiest)

Expected end: 13th. Are we going warriors? This season is long gone and poor old Stacey Jones not only inherited a basket case, he was left out for the opportunity to topple them next year despite being a legend of the club which made the difficult building sites as an assistant coach. At least their home games are now in Auckland, but the not-so-dizzying heights of 13th or 14th are their likely finishing spot.

15. West (10pts, -189)

Run home: Rd 22 Sharks (H), Rd 23 Roosters (A), Rd 24 Dragons (H), Rd 25 Raiders (H).

Best math case scenario: 11-16

Calendar strength: 96 (11th easiest)

Expected end: 15th. Interim coach Brett Kimmorley needs to beat the Knights in Round 24 to ensure the wooden spoon won’t be lodged in Concord after Round 25.

16. Cote d’Or (8pts, -216)

Run home: Rd 22 Sea Eagles (H), Rd 23 Dragons (A), Rd 24 Knights (H), Rd 25 Warriors (A).

Best math case scenario: 12-16.

Calendar strength: 66 (3rd easiest)

Expected end: 16th. Avoiding the spoon and the bag will be Justin Holbrook’s two main missions. If they beat Newcastle and the Warriors they might dodge the spoon but that might not be enough to save the coach’s skin.

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