Hugh McGahan is a former Kiwis player and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Hugh McGahan: Finally, playoffs are fair

Photo / Greg Bowker
Photo / Greg Bowker

The new NRL playoff system has been proven to be fairer given the top four teams from round robin play progressed through to the preliminary final for a chance at the grand final.

Consistent sides are rewarded for top-four finishes after 26 rounds and have a second chance if they have an off-week in the first round of playoffs.

When finishing in the top four under the old McIntyre system, if you were to lose in the first round against the team you played from the bottom half, there was a chance of being out of the competition.

There was not enough of a reward for the more consistent teams and the risk was greater for those in third and fourth.

As we've seen on many occasions, teams that finish seventh or eighth have mostly lost half of their round robin games and relied on the two byes to scrape in.

They will more than likely have a negative points differential and the reward for them was greater if they were lucky enough to win four games in a row for probably the first time during the season.

We experienced the Warriors in 2011 winning seven consecutive games to make the playoffs but suffer a humiliating loss to the third-placed Broncos. The teams in seventh and eighth losing allowed the Warriors to stay alive to win crucial games and eventually make the grand final.

There is no doubt that this year's top four teams left to fight out the preliminary final fixtures deserve to fight for a grand final spot because they were the most consistent over the season. There is debate over the Cowboys and maybe if some crucial refereeing calls went their way last week, they could have been battling to make it through.

By the time you read this article you will know the combatants for the 2012 title but suffice to say, they are worthy of being there. Being in the top four does not automatically give you the right to be in the final but you have given yourself the best opportunity to be there. You must still play the right brand of football and have a slice of luck to be in that last fixture.

Yes, you will have some calls go against you or the bounce of the ball may not favour you, so you need to mentally allow for such discrepancies and not use them as an excuse.

In light of what I have written, is it evidence that the Bulldogs and the Storm be left to fight out the grand final in 2012? At the time of writing this, the latter has made it through, so I can then feel justified.

We all have allegiances to teams, but in the end the great teams prevail and the new system allows that chance.

- Herald on Sunday

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Hugh McGahan is a former Kiwis player and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Hugh Joseph McGahan MBE was a renowned rugby league player and coach who represented New Zealand in no less than 53 test matches, captaining 17 of them. Beginning his career in Auckland he later moved to Sydney where he played over 100 matches for the Roosters, finishing his career in 1991 as captain-coach of the eastern Sydney outfit. Accolades were never far away from the impressive Kiwi lock and in 1987 McGahan jointly won the prestigious Golden Boot Award, the first row forward at the time to win the award. Hugh McGahan’s international career was similarly impressive coming to the fore in 1982 after scoring a remarkable six tries for the Kiwis against Papua New Guinea in Auckland. Hugh Mcgahan ended his career with distinguished honours as he was awarded the Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to rugby and later inducted into the NZRL Legends of League. He continues to write sports columns for the New Zealand Herald.

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