Off the Wall

There are three principal benefits from being at the top of the premiership table going into the finals in the National Rugby League.

They are home games for the top four teams, a guarantee that the top two teams cannot be eliminated in the first round, and any benefit derived from being matched against lower ranking teams. The latter really accrues more to the top two sides - who play eight and seven in the first weekend of the finals.

What some officials and players don't seem to understand about the McIntyre System is that it is really based around teams winning. If teams five, six, seven and eight are victorious in round one, then teams three and four are cactus - their season is finished.

That might be regarded as unfair - but it has been in place for years.

And the allocation of grounds - which is the main source of complaint from the Wests Tigers in particular - is decided by the NRL based on guidelines which have also been in place for some years.

The Tigers are unhappy that they have to travel to Canberra this Friday even though they finished higher on the table than the Raiders did. All true - but in round one of the finals the Tigers lost and the Raiders won.

The whole process - the McIntyre System and the venue allocations - is designed to reward winners.

If anyone has cause for complaint then it is probably the Gold Coast Titans - top four finish,  victory in the first round of the finals...but their next match will be at Lang Park...because round three of the finals is played at "regional venues" of which their home ground is not one! But they get a week off so they really cannot complain too much - and haven't.

laying the Raiders v Tigers game in Canberra will be a massive boost for the NRL in a city where crowds have been very ordinary for some years. The game is a sell out - thanks in part to Terry Campese buying 109 tickets for family and friends! As a player he gets just three freebies.

Getting a record 27,000 to a match in Canberra is a massive achievement.

When the NRL expands the premiership - as it may do in 2013 - the McIntyre System should be reviewed. It is complex - and it can be argued that teams one and two get a significant advantage over three and four.

But any finals system must be based around winners getting the greatest advantage.

The other reason why criticism of the system has grown is that the days when teams one, two, three and four are guaranteed wins in round one are long gone.

As a result, the Warriors who finished a credible fifth on the premiership table were eliminated completely after round one.

Of course the system should be reviewed - but the Tigers, and the other seven clubs, went into the finals series knowing the rules...and knowing that after round one home games were not guaranteed if they lost.

As Blocker Roach said, one of the greatest Tigers of them all, the club needs get over it!

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