NRL finals history shows that the week off after the first finals fixtures is a vital ingredient in premiership success.
Lose this weekend and your NRL season is over. While that’s the reality facing the bottom four finals teams, history has shown that if you’re a top four side defeated in week one of the playoffs it’ll be tough work to go on and win a grand final.
Since the NRL brought in an eight-team finals system in 1999 no side has won from eighth place.
And only four times in 15 seasons have the premiers played in all four weekends of the finals: Melbourne did it in 1999, Canterbury in 2004, Wests Tigers in 2005 and Brisbane in 2006.
In the instance of the Storm and Tigers’ premiership victories they both faced sides (St George Illawarra and North Queensland respectively) that had also played four finals fixtures.
It suggests the week off earned after a qualifying win is a vital ingredient in premiership success.
The extra week Manly endured in last year’s playoffs told in the last half an hour of the grand final as the Roosters, who’d beaten them in the qualifying final two weeks prior, rallied from 18-8 down to triumph 26-18.
Battered and bruised after their epic 4-0 win over Manly in week one of the finals, the Roosters were able to rest up before the showdown with Newcastle two weeks later, while the Sea Eagles fought their way past Cronulla and then South Sydney.
“It is pretty important to the team to just get that recovery in and the preparation for the next game,” Roosters skipper Anthony Minichiello explained.
“It is good to have that week off and watch the other teams go around while you rest up after a long season.
“But that isn’t in our thinking yet.”
The premiers and world club champions face Penrith in Saturday’s first qualifying final at Allianz Stadium.
South Sydney meet Manly in the second qualifying final at the same venue the night before.
“Everyone is playing with injuries this time of year,” said Rabbitohs fullback Greg Inglis, who is battling a hip complaint.
A week off would of course benefit the Queensland and Australian star. Two weeks between games gives Roosters hooker Jake Friend more time to recover from his lung injury and a week’s respite would offer Manly’s injury-hit side a much needed spell too.
The NRL gets faster and more physical ever year, and in the seven seasons since the Broncos’ last premiership triumph in 2006, teams that have enjoyed the week off have met grand final opposition who haven’t five times.
The rested team has come out on top on every occasion.
Superstar Sea Eagles playmaker Kieran Foran says the week off is important but not essential.
“I think every team thinks the same, you have to get the win this week to get that week off to rest the bodies that extra week,” he said.
“It would be nice to have it, it is nice to have it, but it is not the be all and end all.”
NRL GRAND FINAL RESULTS SINCE `99
(Number of finals games/weeks played by either side in brackets)
1999: Melbourne (4) bt St George Illawarra (4)
2000: Brisbane (3) bt Sydney Roosters (4)
2001: Newcastle (3) bt Parramatta (3)
2002: Sydney Roosters (3) bt Warriors (3)
2003: Penrith (3) bt Sydney Roosters (3)
2004: Canterbury (4) bt Sydney Roosters (3)
2005: Wests Tigers (4) bt North Queensland (4)
2006: Brisbane (4) bt Melbourne (3)
2007: Melbourne* (3) bt Manly (3)
2008: Manly (3) bt Melbourne (4)
2009: Melbourne* (3) bt Parramatta (4)
2010: St George Illawarra (3) bt Sydney Roosters (4)
2011: Manly (3) bt Warriors (4)
2012: Melbourne (3) bt Canterbury (3)
2013: Sydney Roosters (3) bt Manly (4)
* Premierships stripped due to salary cap breaches.