Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
The 2020 NRL finals series is less than three weeks away, and the top eight is shaping up nicely.
While current form gives punters a good indication of how the finals will play out, it is also essential to take into account historical trends and statistics when predicting how the post-season will go.
Lets have a look at some of these historical trends.
TEAMS WHO DID NOT MAKE THE TOP EIGHT THE PREVIOUS SEASON RARELY WIN THE PREMIERSHIP
Since the NRL era began in 1998, just three clubs have won the premiership after not making the finals the year prior.
Those three teams are the 2003 Penrith Panthers, the 2005 Wests Tigers and the 2013 Sydney Roosters.
Other teams who have come close to winning the Grand Final after not making the top eight the season before in recent times include the 2019 Canberra Raiders, the 2010 Sydney Roosters and the 2009 Parramatta Eels.
This, of course, would suggest that the current table-topping Penrith Panthers and seventh-placed Newcastle Knights will find it challenging to get the job done in late October.
— NRL (@NRL) September 12, 2020
IF YOU’RE NOT IN THE TOP FOUR, THEN YOUR PREMIERSHIP HOPES ARE SLIM
We have not seen a team win the premiership from outside the top four since the 1995 Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, who astonishingly won the Grand Final from sixth.
It was in that same year the eight-team finals structure was introduced, and since then every finals series has included at least seven teams.
There have been nine clubs since then who have made the Grand Final and lost from outside the top four, from the 1996 St. George Dragons to the 2017 North Queensland Cowboys, giving our current fifth to eighth-seeded teams some hope. However, the added incentive is there for the Canberra Raiders and South Sydney Rabbitohs to make a real late-season push for the top four.
WINNING THE MINOR PREMIERSHIP DOES NOT ALWAYS RESULT IN GRAND FINAL VICTORY
Over the past decade the minor premiers have only gone on to hoist the Provan Summons trophy on four occasions, and while that is more than any other single seeding in the top eight, over half the decade was made up of premiers from second and third, with the minor premiers not even featuring in the Grand Final in 2011, 2014 and 2015.
The previous decade was even bleaker for the table toppers, with just three minor premiers winning the major premiership, and two missing the Grand Final all together.
All the more reason for minor premiership candidates the Penrith Panthers and Melbourne Storm to not get complacent come finals time.