Toughest schedule likely to end for remainder of NRL season after Round 22

With just nine teams left in the race for the NRL Finals with three rounds remaining, it will determine more than just who misses the playoffs.

Careers are on the line for players, coaches and administrators as the 16 NRL teams battle for positions in the final weeks of the schedule.

Premiers Penrith is now all but certain of finishing first after the Cowboys lost to the Roosters

North Queensland would need to win all three remaining games if the Panthes remain winless, leveling a 90-point pro-con differential.

South Sydney’s emphatic victory over Parramatta was significant in the context of the final race – the Rabbitohs have climbed over them to fifth place while the Eels slipped to seventh ahead of the streaky Roosters. Ninth-placed Canberra are the only other team in the final battle after a chunky win over the Dragons after Manly lost on the Gold Coast.

Pro-and-against records will likely come into play when deciding the final standings – the Roosters have a 150-point lead over Canberra in the eighth-place race on that front.

The Raiders have the easiest road home while the Souths have the toughest schedule. When working out the strength of each team’s schedule in the final rounds, it is calculated using a count of the current competition points of the remaining opponent on the ladder.

South Sydney have the highest cumulative total of their recent opponents at 96 compared to Canberra’s 44, hence they have the toughest strength of the schedule.

The best/worst case scenario for each team is based on the best possible mathematical outcome – basically if they win all their remaining games and the other outcomes fit that team to the optimal extent. It’s calculated with a standard win margin in each game of 12 points (there could be much bigger swings in the pros and cons, but then we’re entering real Trainspotter territory, not cool Begbie kind).

team strength of the schedule
robber 44 (easiest)
sharks 48 (second lightest)
Titans 48 (2nd)
dragon 48 (2nd)
Knight 66 (5th)
roosters 68 (6th)
tiger 70 (7th)
sea ‚Äč‚Äčeagle 70 (7th)
eels 72 (9th)
Panthers 74 (10th)
Broncos 78 (11th)
bulldogs 80 (12th)
warrior 80 (12th)
cowboys 80 (12th)
Storm 82 (15th)
Rabbits 96 (16th)

The home run for every team

1. Penrith (1st, 38 points, +298 difference)

Walking home: Rd 23 Rabbitohs (A), Rd 24 Warriors (H), Rd 25 Cowboys (A).

Best-worst scenario for the mathematical case: 1st, could slip to second if they stop winning and the Cowboys don’t lose and close a 90-point difference. It doesn’t happen.

strength of the schedule: 74 (10th easiest)

Estimated end: 1. You can almost lock it up.

2. North Queensland (32pts, +208)

Walking home: Rd 23 Warriors (H), Rd 24 Rabbitohs (A), Rd 25 Panthers (H).

Best-worst scenario for the mathematical case: 1-6 The Cowboys are now guaranteed a place in the top four.

Schedule Strength: 80 (12th easiest)

predicted Finished: 3. They’re three wins behind Penrith and the small Premiership would come in handy, but unless they upset Penrith in the final round Cronulla will take second place.

3. Cronulla (32 points, +137)

Walking home: Rd 23 Sea Eagles (A), Rd 24 Bulldogs (H), Rd 25 Knights (A).

Best-worst scenario for the mathematical case: 2-6

Schedule Strength: 44 (second lightest)

Estimated end: 2. The fate of the top 4 is in their own hands. They have a soft schedule and should skip the cowboys to sneak under the top two.

The Sharks' Jesse Ramien is attacked.

The Sharks’ Jesse Ramien is attacked. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

4. Melbourne (30 points, +211)

Walking home: Rd 23 Broncos (A), Rd 24 Roosters (H), Rd 25 Eels (A).

Best-worst scenario for the mathematical case: 2-8

Schedule Strength: 82 (15th easiest)

Estimated end: 4. They’re no longer sure they’ll make the top four, but the excitement over Penrith has given them more than one chance to make it. They’ll miss the top two in their lowest regular-season finish since 2015 – that’s how successful the Storm machine has been in recent years.

5. South Sydney (28pts, +134)

Walking home: Rd 23 panthers (H), Rd 24 cowboys (H), Rd 25 roosters (A).

Best-worst scenario for the mathematical case: 2-9

Schedule Strength: 96 (hardest)

Estimated end: 7. They face a tough draw to secure their place in the playoffs – the win over Parra opened the door to a possible fourth-place finish.

6. Brisbane (28 points, +69)

Walking home: Rd 23 Storm (H), Rd 24 Eels (H), Rd 25 Dragons (A).

Best-worst scenario for the mathematical case: 2-9

Schedule Strength: 78 (11th easiest)

Estimated end: 5th. A place in the top four is a good possibility after lifting the stick two years ago and finishing 14th last year.

7. Parramatta (28pts, +28)

Walking home: Rd 23 Bulldogs (H), Rd 24 Broncos (A), Rd 25 Storm (H).

Best-worst scenario for the mathematical case: 2-9

Schedule Strength: 72 (9th easiest)

Estimated end: 6th. The loss to Souths means they probably won’t avoid the prospect of doing it the hard way in the final from the bottom half of the table.

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

8. Sydney (26 points, +121)

Walking home: Rd 23 Tigers (H), Rd 24 Storm (A), Rd 25 Rabbitohs (H).

Best-worst scenario for the mathematical case: 3-9

Schedule Strength: 68 (6th easiest)

Estimated end: 8. Five straight wins have boosted the Roosters’ chances of sneaking into the eight. Two of their three games are at home. It could still be the final round against the Rabbitohs in the opening game at the new Allianz Stadium to decide their playoff fate.

team Best-worst finish
1. Penrith 1-2
2.North Qld 1-6
3. Cronulla 2-6
4. Melbourne 2-8
5. South Sydney 2-9
6. Brisbane 2-9
7. Parramatta 2-9
8.Sydney 3-9
9. Canberra 6-11
10. Male 9-11
11. St George Illawarra 9-11
12. Canterbury 11-14
13. New Zealand 12-16
14. Newcastle 12-16
15. Gold Coast 12-16
16. West 12-16

9. Canberra (22 points, -31)

Walking home: Rd 23 Knight (A), Rd 24 Sea Eagle (H), Rd 25 Tiger (A).

Best-worst scenario for the mathematical case: 6-11.

Schedule Strength: 44 (easiest)

Estimated end: 9th. The Green Machine has four wins from their last five starts. They don’t have higher-ranked teams on their schedule, but the question remains whether they can count on stringing together four straight wins to reach the eight. They’ll likely slip to lower teams in one of their three starts.

(Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

10. Male (20 points, -28)

Walking home: Rd 23 Sharks (H), Rd 24 Raiders (A), Rd 25 Bulldogs (A).

Best-worst scenario for the mathematical case: 9-11

Schedule Strength: 70 (7th easiest)

Estimated end: 10. Four straight losses and the Sea Eagles dry up.

11. St George Illawarra (20pts, -132)

Walking home: Rd 23 Titans (H), Rd 24 Tigers (A), Rd 25 Broncos (H).

Best-worst scenario for the mathematical case: 9-11

Schedule Strength: 48 (second lightest)

Estimated end: 11. With a relatively weak tie to end the season, the Dragons should have been fighting for a playoff spot, but their loss to the Raiders on Sunday was the final straw.

12. Canterbury (14 points, -141)

Walking home: Rd 23 eels (A), Rd 24 sharks (A), Rd 25 sea eagles (H).

Best-worst scenario for the mathematical case: 11-14

Schedule Strength: 80 (12th easiest)

Estimated end: 12. Their recent form under caretaker manager Mick Potter has been a breath of fresh air, aside from Friday’s defeat in Auckland.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - AUGUST 12: Shaun Johnson of the Warriors pauses to take a shot during the Round 22 NRL game between the New Zealand Warriors and the Canterbury Bulldogs at Mt Smart Stadium on August 12, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand try to achieve .  (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

13. New Zealand (12 points, -213)

Walking home: Rd 23 Cowboys (A), Rd 24 Panthers (A), Rd 25 Titans (H).

Best-worst scenario for the mathematical case: 12-16

Schedule Strength: 80 (12th easiest)

Estimated end: 13. Let’s Gone Warriors? This season is long over and poor old Stacey Jones not only inherited a shot, he was passed over to turn it over next year despite being a club legend who made the hard yards as an assistant coach. The big win over the Bulldogs was great to watch for league hungry Auckland fans.

14. Newcastle (14 points, -252)

Walking home: Rd 23 Raiders (H), Rd 24 Titans (A), Rd 25 Sharks (H).

Best-worst scenario for the mathematical case: 12-16

Schedule Strength: 66 (5th easiest)

Estimated end: 14. They haven’t beaten any of the top 8 teams all year and are unlikely to rise any higher than their current predicament.

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

15. Gold Coast (8 points, -196)

Walking home: Rd 23 dragons (A), Rd 24 knights (H), Rd 25 warriors (A).

Best-worst scenario for the mathematical case: 12-16

Schedule Strength: 48 (second lightest)

Estimated end: 15th. Avoiding the spoon and the sack will be the two main tasks for Justin Holbrook. They have Newcastle and the Warriors on the agenda but they dodge the spoon but it may not be enough to save the coach’s skin.

16. West (10 points, -213)

Walking home: Rd 23 roosters (A), Rd 24 dragons (H), Rd 25 hunters (H).

Best-worst scenario for the mathematical case: 11-16

Schedule Strength: 70 (7th easiest)

Estimated end: 16. Caretaker coach Brett Kimmorley has to endure a few upsets to ensure the wooden spoon doesn’t get housed in Concord after round 25.

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