In an interesting sub plot to the 2017 NRL finals the past two Premiers, Cronulla and North Queensland go head-to-head in one of this week’s elimination finals. While the Cowboys are low on troops and had to rely on St George Illawarra losing to the Bulldogs just to make the finals they’ll head to Allianz Stadium with hopes of causing an upset but can they beat the Sharks, or are the reigning champs a sure thing to qualify for week two?
Since the NRL moved away from the McIntyre Final Eight System in 2012 the team that has finished eighth has never beaten the team that finished fifth.
- Brisbane 44-28 Gold Coast in 2016
- Bulldogs 11-10 St George Illawarra in 2015
- North Queensland 32-20 Brisbane in 2014
- Cronulla 20-18 North Queensland in 2013
- North Queensland 33-16 Brisbane in 2012
Not that the eighth placed team fared any better in the McIntyre system winning only twice against the Minor Premiers (Parramatta beat St George Illawarra in 2009, and the Warriors beat Melbourne in 2008). The Warriors made it to the preliminary final that year, while Parramatta were defeated in the Grand Final.
In a more telling blow the Cowboys are winless in six finals matches played at Allianz Stadium dating back to 2007. Two of those defeats have come against Cronulla including the 32-20 loss in last year’s preliminary final.
North Queensland’s only defeat in a finals campaign came in their 2015 Premiership winning season when they thrashed the Sharks 39-0 at 1300SMILES Stadium.
So can Paul Green’s men defy history and progress to Week Two of the finals or will history repeat itself and find themselves watching the rest of the finals from the comfort of their own homes?