NRL Round 25 – ‘Keeping the season alive’
If you have been reading my blog or have spent any time with me you will no doubt have read or heard me bang on about ‘must win’ games or any other form of label that adds additional pressure to games and events.
This round there are 4 teams who are on the cusp of the top 8 and are playing for their season, hence ‘must win’. These teams are Canberra, Gold Coast, Newcastle and Wests. None of them are playing each other, so all of them have the potential to be victorious this weekend.
I bet every one of them have spoken about how important a win this week is; I bet every one of them has had a look at the draw to see who plays who next week to figure out what has be done to make the 8.
Of the 4 teams playing for their season this weekend only 1 of them won; the Raiders (who flogged the top-of-the-table-12-in-a-row-Bulldogs).
So the team playing the highest ranked opposition this weekend were the only ones to manage a win. How do you explain that?
Some will argue that the Raiders were the only team who played at home. Here’s how I explain it.
Teams on the cusp of the 8 are inconsistent because to be in that position at this time of year a team needs to have a 50/50 record. That means that they have spent all year trying to figure out how to become consistent and everything they have tried so far has not worked.
Why should this round be any different?
So, this means we have an inconsistent team going into a match that has the additional pressure of being ‘must win’ for them, whilst their opposition are not under the same amount of pressure.
If I had to pick between which team would perform the best, I choose the team under the least amount of pressure every time.
Newcastle, Gold Coast and Wests were all under pressure to win and they all failed. They all played away from home and they all did not manage to produce a win. I wonder if any of them played their best football, despite losing.
The Raiders were the exception, so let’s have a look at their situation.
Canberra were hosting the Bulldogs, who were favourites, despite stories of big betting plunges on the Raiders or suggestions that the Bulldogs were going to lie down (if you know anything about rugby league you will know that a Des Hasler coached side doesn’t lie down).
Even though the Raiders face a ‘must win’ game (which increases pressure) they are not expected to win (which reduces pressure). This situation is much more preferable to playing in a ‘must win’ game and also being expected to win, like the Titans and Tigers were because they were both playing teams in the bottom 3 of the competition.
Inconsistent teams don’t perform well under pressure, so not being expected to beat the Bulldogs would have worked favourably for the Raiders. The Knights went close against the Cowboys, but I doubt they played their best football. The Titans were out done in a game of 2nd half touch by the Panthers.
Next week it will be the Broncos and the Tigers who will be playing for the final spot in the top 8.
Both are playing at home and both a coming off a loss, although the Broncos loss to Manly (6-16) in a tough defensive encounter) is different to the flogging the Tigers got from the Roosters (20-44).
Brisbane play the Panthers, who are 15th on the ladder, while the Tigers play the Storm who are currently in 2nd place. So, the Broncos are expected to win a ‘must win’ game and the Tigers are not expected to win a ‘must win’ game.
The Broncos have even less pressure on them than the Tigers because they can still make the top 8 even if they lose. The Tigers can only make it if they win and the Broncos lose.
This season the Broncos have been more consistent than the Tigers and I have written about the Broncos’ mental toughness which they displayed earlier in the year. If they can produce that mental toughness in the final round they will play finals football