With one round to go in the closest NRL competition in memory, there are any number of permutations from where sides could finish up. But what happens if two teams finish on the same number of competition points with an identical differential?
Fortunately, pretty much all the teams in finals contention have a for-and-against far enough removed from the ladder neighbours for that not to be a factor.
But for the eighth-placed Broncos and ninth-placed Warriors, each on 28 competition points, they are separated by just seven points – the Broncos on +103 and the Warriors on +96.
What happens if the Eels lose to Canberra, the Broncos lose to the Storm and the Warriors lose to Penrith? All three sides finish on 28 points and only one makes the finals.
The Eels would be gone – their -90 has them well out of the picture if it comes down to differential.
But what happens if the Warriors lose by one, and the Broncos by eight – and they both finish with a +95 in the for-and-against column?
NRL.com can confirm the next step in the countback is your differential as a percentage of your overall points scored. Make sense? Didn't think so. Here's how it works.
For our example, let's say Brisbane go down 20-12, and the Warriors 13-12.
Brisbane would have 549 for, 454 against, +95 differential. The Warriors would have 572 for, 482 against, +95 differential.
If you can bear with us through a bit of maths, what the equation says is that +95 is more significant for the Broncos, because it is a bigger proportion of their overall points, determined by taking your 'for' and dividing by your 'against' and multiplying by 100 – meaning Brisbane would sneak in.
Broncos: 549/454 x 100 = 120.9%
Warriors: 572/482 x 100 = 118.7%
But what if the percentage is also the same? Unlikely, yes, but for argument's sake: if Brisbane go down 42-34 (unlikely score, we know, bear with us) and Warriors by 7-6, both have 571 for, 476 against, 119.96%.
What then? Whoever has scored the most tries for the year gets the nod. Brisbane are currently six behind the Warriors, but in the above example, it's entirely possible Brisbane score seven tries and the Warriors one, making them still un-splittable. Then it comes back to goals – in the above example, three goals to Brisbane and one to Warriors. After that it's field goals, and each team has kicked one this year.
So in our rather unlikely scenario, the next method of deciding who finishes higher is a coin toss. So there you have it – Broncos lose 42-34 in Melbourne, the Warriors go down 7-6 in a nailbiter at Penrith, and Dave Smith (we assume) tosses the coin that decides which team gets an early Mad Monday and which gets a shot at finals glory.
We can't see anything in the by-laws about which captain gets to call the coin toss... so until we hear otherwise we assume that is decided by a best-of-three game of scissors-paper-rock.