Pathways from the Periphery


Canberra sit on the outside of the finals, looking in.

Here’s a fact: they’ve won twelve games, and even if they win their last two, and therefore 14 games for the season, they may not make the finals. Consider their stunning 2019 run was fuelled by winning precisely one (1) more game, and you might wonder if the difference between now and then was some weird refereeing in Wollongong or a notable collapse here (against the Warriors) and there (against the Cows).

The answer of course is that this is not 2019. That team had an air of certainty to them. One was less worried about whether they would turn up, about how they would perform. They were consistent. This current version isn’t even consistent within games, let alone between them. But that doesn’t mean they can’t shake the tree if they make the finals. They’ve proven a unique ability to be distracted by anything shiny play to the level of their opposition (except the Panthers), and have beaten or competed with most teams in the top 8.

So maybe they can do something. The bigger problem right now is can they make it? Are there even any pathways to the core? What needs to happen for them to make the finals? The shame of this season is that it’s no longer in their control. It should have been but well, you know…sigh.

By our read there are three possible scenarios, ranging from theoretically possible to almost plausible. None are likely on the balance of probabilities, but let’s run through them anyway.

Theoretically possible. The Eels lose by heaps to the Broncos and the Storm and the Raiders pump Manly and the Tigers

This is possible in the same sense that it’s possible that I might join the coaching staff before Saturday. Sure it could happen, but we’d have to ignore what’s happened over a long period of time to see it happen. The Eels may lose both games, but Canberra would only be able to join them on 30 competition points. The Raiders have to make up something in the order of 80 points in for and against. Assuming Eels lose to by 10ish each game, the Milk would need to win both games by something in the 30 point range. Given cracking 30 hasn’t been a regularity this season (they’ve done it only three times), it feels like this nothing but a theory.

Possible but not likely: Broncos lose to the Eels and the Dragons

This hinges on the idea that the Raiders win twice, and the Broncos lose twice. No issue with making up points differential. In that scenario the Milk just straight up take the Broncos spot. Huzzah!

The Broncos play the Eels this week. That’s a game they could definitely lose. But the problem is the week after they play the Dragons. There’s a team that will be playing for almost nothing, going up against a quality team potentially trying to keep its season alive. Which would you think would win?

The way this may work is if Ben Hunt turns in a masterclass, proving once and for all he’s the better version of Adam Reynolds.

Go Dozer I guess.

Plausible: Either the Roosters or the Bunnies lose twice

This is made all the more plausible by the fact that they are playing each other in the last round, so one of them has to lose. That’s half the battle. This round the Roosters play the Storm at AAMI park, and the Bunnies play the Cows at Accor. Both are possible losses, but it’s hard to feel confident about either. In two fifty-fifty games the likelihood that both will go the way we want is unlikely. One of them may, and then the last Friday night of the regular season becomes a big deal.

These are two of the form teams of the competition. The Roosters just put 70 on the Tigers last week. The Raiders have scored 58 points over their last three games. The Bunnies have looked like the best side in the whole competition at times since Latrell Mitchell returned. The Raiders sometimes struggle to look like the best team in the games they win.

God forbid both the Roosters and the Bunnies lose this weekend, because then that would expose the other challenge in this process, the assumption we’ve made in calculating these pathways from the periphery of the finals. Canberra would only need to beat a Manly team who hasn’t won since mid July, and a Tigers team that has generally fallen apart after the briefest of renaissances a few rounds back.

Easy as. Right?

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