The gap between the NRL's top eight and bottom eight is looming to be both an advantage and a hindrance for the New Zealand Warriors heading into battle for a spot in the NRL playoffs.
With the Warriors dropping to eighth following Friday's 36-4 defeat to the Panthers, eyes will start looking down the NRL table and more specifically towards the ninth placed Raiders who sit six points adrift.
But NRL commentator Andrew Voss pointed out on the Radio Sport Breakfast this morning that the gulf between the best and worst teams in the competition will work in the Warriors' favour – in terms of making the playoffs.
If they get there, they then face a tough challenge based on the results so far in 2018.
Voss said the bottom eight have played 66 matches against the top eight sides and there's only been 11 victories. The Warriors have a perfect record against the bottom eight but continuing that trend won't be enough if they want to make the top four.
"Now we get down to the serious issue of contenders, if you crunch the numbers, it might take 16 wins to make the top four. That means the Warriors have to win six of their remaining matches to make the top four – and that really should be the Warriors' goal," Voss told Radio Sport.
"Right at the moment they've had one too many big losses and Sunday [against the Broncos] becomes a huge day for them," he said.
The Warriors' record against the current bottom eight is perfect – seven games for seven wins with a for and against of +82.
But their record against the current top eight is glaring as they eye their first appearance in the playoffs since 2011. They have played nine games against the top eight, with just three wins and a for and against of minus 92.
Ninth placed Canberra sit six points back from the Warriors in ninth but have a woeful 0-6 record against top eight teams, with four more clashes remaining.
Probably the most concerning stat for the Warriors is the manner in which they have lost to fellow top sides - four defeats by 20 points or more against the Storm, Roosters, Rabbitohs and Panthers. The Roosters and Rabbitohs loses came after wins earlier in the season over the Sydney clubs.
Voss said the Warriors just looked to switch off in Friday's heavy loss to the Panthers, the first time the club have lost back-to-back games in 2018.
"10 minutes in I was saying 'The Warriors are switched on here tonight' and then someone switched them off.
"It got all too hard, too quick for the Warriors. Just a disappointing performance. Totally out-enthused by their opponents…the Warriors forwards just went missing," Voss said.
Warriors against the current top eight
3 wins 6 defeats – for 139 against 231 +/- -92
Warriors against the current bottom eight
7 wins 0 defeats - for 169 against 87 + 82