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With just one round remaining, a whopping 10 teams can still feature in the NRL finals this season – and incredibly just one actual position in the top eight is confirmed. <br><br>While St George Illawarra, Penrith, the Wests Tigers, Gold Coast, the Roosters and the Warriors are all certain to play finals football, only the Dragons know what position they will finish in, having already wrapped up the minor premiership.<br><br>So, just how important is positioning inside the top eight? Very, if the history of the McIntyre finals system is anything to go by. <br><br>Sure, last season Parramatta proved you can come from “nowhere” to challenge for the title, but their loss in the decider continued an 11-year run of glory for top-four teams. <br><br>Since the McIntyre system was introduced in 1999, every single grand final winner started the finals in the top four. <br><br>This puts a bit of a dampener on the fairytale run of the Canberra Raiders, who would need to create their own history, first to make the finals and then to do the “impossible” and win it from the bottom half of the eight. <br><br>If you’ve watched the Green Machine entertain the masses over the past few months you could be forgiven for thinking they can be the first to buck the trend… but facts are facts – and there are plenty of interesting ones coming out of the finals in the past 11 years. <br><br>Take, for example, the premiers. As stated above, there hasn’t been one side come from outside the top four to claim a premiership ring since 1999. In a possible bad omen for the Dragons, the minor premiers have won the major title only three times (27 per cent success rate); team two has held the premiership trophy aloft just twice (18 per cent); while teams three and four have each also won the title three times each (27 per cent). It appears finishing in the top two hasn’t turned out to be the blessing it was intended to be!<br><br>But the Dragons can take some solace in the history of making the grand final from position one, even if they failed to do so last season. In terms of making the grand final the minor premiers have done so on eight of 11 seasons, or 73 per cent of the time. Of course, the flip side is that on five of the eight occasions, the minor premier lost the decider… but at least they were there! <br><br>We all remember Parramatta’s glory run from eighth spot last year – the lowest-placed regular season team to ever make the grand final – but outside them, the 1999 sixth-placed Dragons and 2005 fifth-placed North Queensland are the only sides to get to the grand final from the lower half of the eight. So just three of 22 grand final teams have come from the low side – that’s just 14 per cent and as stated before, they have a zero per cent success rate in the big game. <br><br>(As a sidenote, the team finishing third in the minor premiership has a three-from-three record and the team running fourth has a two-from-two record when they have made the grand final, so they tend to make it and win it ... or not make it at all. Team two has been runner-up on three occasions.)<br><br>In terms of finals series streaks (this is discounting whatever winning streak a side may have been on entering the finals), on eight of 11 occasions the team that hoisted the trophy went through the finals without a loss – meaning only three teams have successfully recovered from an opening week play-off loss to win the premiership.<br><br>As most are aware, the McIntyre system pits team one against team eight, team two against team seven, team three against team six and team four against team five in the opening week of the finals, with the two lowest-ranked losers being eliminated. This actually puts teams three and four at risk of elimination in Week One of the finals and while it has yet to happen, the Warriors and Eels have proven eight can beat one, having done so in the past two years.<br><br>But, their miraculous wins over Melbourne and the Dragons in ’08 and ’09 still equate to just an 18 per cent win ratio in Week One of the finals. Amazingly, team six has a better ratio of wins over team three, despite giving up home ground advantage. <br><br><b>Here is the breakdown of all team’s results in Week One:</b><br><br>•&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Team One: nine wins, two losses (82 per cent win ratio)<br>•&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Team Two: seven wins, four losses (64 per cent win ratio)<br>•&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Team Three: five wins, six losses (45 per cent win ratio)<br>•&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Team Four: seven wins, four losses (64 per cent win ratio)<br>•&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Team Five: four wins, seven losses (36 per cent win ratio)<br>•&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Team Six: six wins, five losses (55 per cent win ratio)<br>•&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Team Seven: four wins, seven losses (36 per cent win ratio)<br>•&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Team Eight: two wins, nine losses (18 per cent win ratio)<br><br>These results have obviously had different permutations in different seasons, but the end result has seen the following trends:<br>Team eight has been eliminated in the first week on nine of 11 occasions and team seven has also been given the quick punt seven out of 11 times. <br><br>But perhaps a little more worrying for those teams travelling a little better is the fact team six has gone straight out of the finals on four occasions and team five bombed out once in 2004 – and then again last year when Manly were the unlucky losers.<br><br>There is also the age-old question about whether or not a week off in the finals series (earned by the two highest-ranked winners after Week One) is beneficial or a hindrance. Well, the results over the past 11 years suggest the debate will rage on, with those with a week off winning on 55 per cent of occasions and losing 45 per cent of the time the match after the layoff. It does show that the break is certainly not necessarily the huge bonus it is made out to be – although it does guarantee your side won’t be eliminated in Week Two!<br><br>Another interesting fact which should not be overlooked is that at least one of the top-five sides each and every year has gone straight out the back door of the finals with back-to-back losses.<br><br>Last year the Dragons became the first minor premier to suffer this fate, thanks to straight losses against the Eels and Broncos. Amazingly, the third-placed Titans were also pummelled out in ‘straight sets’ last season. On two other occasions it was the team that finished second in the minor premiership that made no impact in the finals.<br><br>The 1999 Roosters finished fourth before getting bundled out with successive losses. The 2000 Panthers (fifth), 2001 Bulldogs (second), 2002 Knights (second), 2003 Raiders (fourth), 2004 Broncos (third), 2005 Broncos (third), 2006 Sea Eagles (fifth), 2007 Warriors (fourth), 2008 Roosters (fourth) and the 2009 Dragons (first) and Titans (third) all suffered the same inglorious fate. This begs the question: Which top-five sides will slide out the back door this year?<br><br>This and many questions are still to be answered as we enter the final round of the minor premiership. Three teams are still vying for second spot and a certain second ‘bite at the cherry’ if they lose in Week One. While the Dragons and Wests Tigers are certainties for the top four, six other teams are vying for the two other spots. Penrith’s win last night means only an unlikely massive loss in the final round and a huge win by another team put them at risk at missing a home final. So the Titans, Roosters and Warriors look set to fight out the final home semi. <br><br>Manly and Canberra have their top-eight fate in their hands. If they win they are in… but lose and the door is open for the Broncos and Rabbitohs. <br><br>Where will your team finish? With the above statistics in mind, what does that mean for their premiership chances? Will they make the finals but then prove cannon fodder? <br><br>We've done the number crunching and you can find OUR results by <a href=""><b>clicking here</b></a>.<br><br>Remember, you can also try to predict the scores and outcomes on our <a href=""><b>Bailey Ladder Predictor</b></a>.<br>
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