NRL Projections Update – Round 21, 2017

I think rugby league historians prefer the expression “dour” when they really mean “boring” game. The Panthers-Bulldogs match on Thursday night will not be making much of an impression in the record books and so I think we’re safe to use the expression “boring”. The teams went to the break at Pepper Stadium even but we all knew something from the Panthers was coming and they delivered, scoring two more tries and taking the win.

The Sharks were never in any real doubt against the Warriors in Auckland on Friday night. The Warriors out-errored the league leaders in the field and lost out in possession, the kicking game and the game overall to the Sharks. The Broncos were in the picture in the first half against the Eels, sprinting out to a twelve point lead in the first ten minutes. The Eels got level quickly and kept the Broncos’ playmakers quiet and out-muscled their forward pack. Jonus Pearson was a liability on the Brisbane wing, slipping over half a dozen times, while Corey Norman and Mitchell Moses have formed a solid combo in the Eels’ halves, steering Parramatta to a win.

After dismantling Manly the week before, the question was “Are St George good again?” The answer was a resounding “no”. Everything went the Knights’ way for a change in front of a good turnout in Newcastle. With only a narrow lead at half time, the expectation was that the Knights would fade away but they kept the Dragons out and sealed the win with a late try and field goal. Taking a 3-1 try lead into the break, Canberra were in control of their rendezvous with Souths. The Raiders eventually took the win after the full eighty, despite a late consolation try for the Bunnies, avoiding the need for the childish meltdowns that has marked more recent Canberra losses. At Allianz, the Cowboys stormed to an early lead and looked in pole position to take a somewhat surprising win. The Roosters showed why they are in contention for this year’s minor premiership and overall premiership by pegging the Cows back to even and then taking the lead by the three-quarter mark. The Roosters kept the Cowboys at bay for the remaining quarter of the tense affair to take the two points.

Melbourne demolished Manly on Sunday afternoon for Cameron Smiths’ 350th game. The Sea Eagles were only down by six at half time before the Storm monstered their way through the second half to take a commanding win. Manly have now suffered two big losses in a row, raising questions over their form. On the Gold Coast, the Titans basically handed the Tigers a win on a platter. Any time the Gold Coast looked dangerous or in a scoring position, they managed to drop the ball or pass it forward. Wests’ execution was cleaner and netted them two points in an otherwise unentertaining game.

Round 21 Results

penrith-sm Penrith 16 (10-9) d canterbury-sm Canterbury 8 (7-12)

cronulla-sm Cronulla 26 (13-6) d warriors-sm New Zealand 12 (7-12)

parramatta-sm Parramatta 28 (12-7) d brisbane-sm Brisbane 14 (12-7)

newcastle-sm Newcastle 21 (3-16) d st george illawarra-sm St George Illawarra 14 (10-9)

canberra-sm Canberra 32 (8-11) d souths-sm South Sydney 18 (6-13)

sydney city-sm Sydney City 22 (14-5) d north qld-sm North Queensland 16 (12-7)

melbourne-sm Melbourne 40 (14-5) d manly-sm Manly 6 (11-8)

wests tigers-sm Wests Tigers 26 (5-14) d gold coast titans-sm Gold Coast 4 (7-12)

Collated Ladder

Now to look ahead to see what the Collated Ladder has predicted for the final standings of the season.

I feel like we’ve come full circle on a couple of months ago. The top four is the same as we had after round 15, although the Roosters and Sharks are swapped around. The number of wins for Easts is even the same, so I can only conclude we may as well have not bothered with the last six rounds and should just head straight to the finals.

The second four is also fairly similar, although Parramatta are in and Manly are out. Whether you believe that or not is largely down to the Dragons’ fairly favourable for-and-against while the Sea Eagles’ have conceded 92 points in two games so aren’t looking so good. Manly are up on Stocky projected wins though, so are probably more likely to snag eighth place on the real ladder.

rd21-2017-collated ladder

Probabilities Matrix

The Stocky can give us the probability of specific season outcomes so you can see how your team is tracking to win the minor premiership, make the finals or avoid the wooden spoon.

I brought Cronulla back to the minor premiership contenders graph. With the Cowboys, they’re the only two teams outside of the Storm and Roosters still registering a number for their chances at a minor premiership win. They are well outside chances though: the Cowboys’ chances have been sliding for two rounds while the Sharks’ have been gone for three. Both Melbourne’s and Sydney City’s come up a bit thanks to cleaning up some scenarios where other teams have dropped away. It’s looking like a run down to the wire with the Storm and Roosters unable to contemplate dropping a game.

The finalists are just about locked away as well. With the Dragons’ loss to the Knights, they’ve dropped away to 55%, a number that will likely decline. Manly are the lowest out of the eight now at 73% having copped two big losses, then the Donkeys at 89% due to losing their last game and now having a just-above average rating. Everyone else is just about a shoe-in.


rd21-2017-minor premiers

rd21-2017-finals contenders

rd21-2017-wooden spoon

Finals Matrix

We’re getting closer to the end of the season and the clubs are shaping into two camps of who will and who will not be there in September. The Stocky has been modified to run it’s magic on the finals series for two scenarios:

  1. Inputs based on today’s ratings for the top eight based on today’s ladder positions
  2. Inputs based on the Stocky’s projected end of season rating and the Collated Ladder’s top eight

The below table shows the likelihood of each team reaching a given round of the finals based on these scenarios. Teams with a line through them have a slim-to-no chance in either scenario of finishing in the top eight, let alone featuring as more than elimination final speedbumps.

rd21-2017-finals matrix

The most likely scenario for each team, although not the most likely outcome of each game, is highlighted in green and the premiership favourites are highlighted in yellow.

We may as well pack it in now. Melbourne is the strong premiership favourite in both scenarios. Melbourne are more likely to win the grand final than any other outcome in their set of probabilities. The nearest rivals are the Sharks, Roosters and Cowboys, each about as likely as each other to win the grand final. The Broncos are likely to be eliminated in the semis with the Panthers, Dragons and Sea Eagles not likely to make it past the elimination final if they even make the top eight.

Projected Wins

This table and graph shows the number of predicted wins this season for each club using the Stocky and Pythagorean expectation. The numbers should align to an extent but a significant mismatch can indicate a possible imminent change in performance.

The immediate outlook compares the projected wins from the Stocky and Pythag to approximately assess how each team might go in the foreseeable future. It assumes that the Stocky is more accurate than Pythagoras. If Stocky is higher than Pythag, more wins by bigger margins are in the offing. If the Pythag is higher, then more losses or narrow wins might be ahead. To be clear, this is very approximate and has not been tested.

rd21-2017-wins table

rd21-2017-wins graph