NRL 2020 | Your Team's Chances Of Winning The Premiership

The 2020 NRL season has been a long slog, but we're here.

Finals footy is just around the corner. Already, the mid-week feeling towards the upcoming weekend is different. The best go up against the best while the other four sides prepare for do-or-die football as they look to kickstart a fairy tale run.

With hopes at their highest and some daring to dream, the Stats Insider Futures Model has crunched the numbers to determine the premiership chances of the eight remaining teams.

1. Penrith Panthers - 21.6%

The Penrith Panthers finished as Minor Premiers in 2020 but they're on the third line of the Stats Insider futures projections.

For winning the premiership: Entering the finals series on a 15-game winning streak, the Panthers are undoubtedly the form side of the competition. Led by Nathan Cleary - recently hailed as the best player in 2020 - they're scoring 26.9 points per game (2nd) while conceding just 11.9 points per game (1st). While their attack is what features on the highlights packages, it's Penrith's defence that is most encouraging at this time of the year.

As we covered while the NRL season sat in limbo back in April: "Almost every premiership-winning team in the NRL has laid claim to an elite defence."

Against winning the premiership: Cohesion goes a long way in rugby league. Penrith has been relatively lucky with injuries throughout the year and have been fortunate enough to play a lot of footy together. However, they've not been pushed as a group for quite some time. The rigours of finals football are different. There is a chance this group may receive a shock when made to work a little harder or be more patient.

The only game they haven't won by double digits since Round 12 came against the Warriors in Round 14. Even then, they played with a 16-0 lead and always looked comfortable. They've won their six games since by an average of 23.8 points.

2. Melbourne Storm - 26.1%

Craig Bellamy, Cameron Smith and the Melbourne Storm just keep doing it. We've been hearing about an end to their dynasty for years. Still, Melbourne finished 2nd on the NRL ladder while spending much of the season away from home.

For winning the premiership: Craig Bellamy and Cameron Smith. They're the best coach/player duo in NRL history and don't appear to be slowing down. Despite turning 37-years old during the season, Smith continues to dominate out of dummy half. Melbourne is a well-drilled side. They always know where to be and when. With that, Smith can trust where his teammates will be and pull the strings to their attack accordingly. In defence, Melbourne is once again towards the top of the list conceding just 13.8 points per game (2nd).

Melbourne's spine is one of the best in the competition. Their pack is the perfect mix of gargantuan ball-runners and crafty ball-players. They have their best players in key positions, and for most of them, finals footy is nothing new.

Against winning the premiership: If there is one area the Storm lag behind the other premiership contenders, it's in the yardage game. 

They ran for 1,721 metres per game in 2020 to rank 7th in the NRL. Of the eight remaining teams in the competition, only the Raiders and Sharks rank lower. Like the defensive numbers for the Panthers, running metres have been an area premiership winners have thrived. Five of the last six premiership winners finished inside the top three in running metres per game. Meanwhile, only the 2013 Roosters have won the premiership after finishing lower than 7th since at least 2009.

Smith has all the tools in attack for the Storm to dominate. Whether or not they can get up the field and into good ball areas will play a big part in their premiership hopes from here.

3. Parramatta Eels - 12.8%

It's been a season of two halves for the Eels who have managed to stay inside the top four despite a dip in form.

For winning the premiership: The Eels of Round 1 to 11 looked a lot like premiership contenders. They sat at the top of the NRL ladder after Round 9 with a 19.4% chance of winning the Grand Final.

Parramatta's attack appeared to be coming along nicely. Down the left edge, in particular. Their 23.1 points per game ranked 6th after 11 rounds while Parramatta led the competition in yardage with 1,949 running metres per game. However, it was in defence that they earned their plaudits. Conceding just 12.2 points per game, the Eels played with the best defence in the NRL throughout the first 11 rounds. The 1,550 running metres conceded ranked 3rd at the time.

That version of the Eels can compete through October and is capable of an upset or two through to the Grand Final.

Against winning the premiership: As good as Parramatta played to start the year, six wins in their last nine games papers over the sort of cracks that threaten to open up into a straight-sets finals departure.

They have played with the second-worst attack in the competition since Round 12 scoring 15.3 points per game. That has also been somewhat padded by scoring 54 points across Rounds 19 and 20 against two of the worst three defensive teams in 2020. While their defence still ranks 4th conceding 17.1 points per game, it's not what it was earlier in the season.

Parramatta's pack rolled up the middle to start the season. An 80-minute machine, they gave key playmakers every opportunity to pile up points. Since then, the Eels have dropped to 8th in yardage running for just 1,677 metres per game. What was previously an equally strong middle defence has allowed the opposition to run for 1,707 metres per game in that time (11th).

The more recent version of the Eels may only last a fortnight in this finals series.

4. Sydney Roosters - 28.9%

Some started to doubt the Sydney Roosters after their 24-6 loss to the Storm in Round 14. Plenty more are reading a lot into their 52-point loss to the Rabbitohs in Round 20. The Stats Insider Futures model, however, still has the Roosters on the first line of premiership projections.

For winning the premiership: They've won two in a row and much of the side remains for a crack at a third. Luke Keary is one of the best players in rugby league right now. To many, James Tedesco is the best.

Sydney's backline is laden with attacking talent that can run any team off the field in a matter of minutes. They lead the NRL with 27.6 points per game.

In Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Sio Siua Taukeiaho, the Chooks play behind a dominant middle working towards 1,783 running metres per game (3rd). They would be a much better team with Victor Radley's ball-playing through the middle. Although, Sonny Bill Williams is making for a pretty handy replacement. 

Here he plays deep into the line to force Lachlan Fitzgibbon to turn in. That isolates Sitili Tupouniua onto Mason Lino who makes a good one-on-one tackle. Williams then digs into the line again before getting it wide to Joseph Manu who attracts two defenders before releasing an offload. 

The ball-playing middle is key to Sydney's success. They have found their replacement in Sonny Bill Williams and, outside of their nightmare in Round 20, look like a premiership-winning side with him out there.

Against winning the premiership: Winning one NRL premiership is really hard. Winning two hadn't been done until the Roosters completed it last season. Winning three - in a season like this - is an incredible task.

There is little doubt that the Roosters have the roster to do it. However, we've seen them play a few more off games in 2020 than in prior years. Injuries have played a role throughout the year, too. 

The air of invincibility is no longer there for the Roosters. While nothing will be as bad as their Round 20 loss to the Rabbitohs, another off game over the next month will cost them a three-peat.

5. Canberra Raiders - 4.1%

The beaten 2019 Grand Finalists are desperate to go one better in 2020, but they'll have to make history if they're to lift the Provan-Summons Trophy.

For winning the premiership: The Canberra Raiders continue to find ways to clear hurdles and inch closer to the Grand Final. An injury to Josh Hodgson all but rubbed them out of contention for most. Then came little Tom Starling. He's played so well at dummy half that Hodgson walking straight into an 80-minute role when he does return for 2021 is far from a certainty.

Jack Wighton has continued his dominance at five-eighth while Elliott Whitehead has played out one of the most underappreciated seasons ever seen. The Raiders left edge has accounted for 45% of Canberra's total tries in 2020. It's played a major role in their 6th-ranked attack scoring 22.3 points per game. 

But just as it was last season, the defence of the Green Machine has allowed them to work through tough periods of the season. They've continued to win games despite nursing plenty of injuries while conceding only 15.9 points per game. 

The Raiders aren't the most talented team in the competition. Ricky Stuart has instilled a toughness in the side, though. The horrors of collapse after collapse in 2018 have gone. This is a different Raiders side. One that can never be ruled out of clawing their way to ANZ Stadium on October 25.

Against winning the premiership: Wighton and George Williams make up an excellent halves pairing. Josh Papalii is one of the best props in the game and a feature in the 2020 Team of the Season. While quieter this year, John Bateman is a top tier edge back rower.

The Raiders have talent in key positions, but not to the extent of the Roosters, Storm and Panthers. They're relying a lot on the likes of Semi Valemei, Dunamis Lui, Joseph Tapine and Hudson Young to play above their regular production.

While a handful of players might exceed expectations for one game, the Raiders need to win four to end the season on top. No team in NRL history has won the premiership from outside the top four. 

6. South Sydney Rabbitohs - 4.6%

One moment, the South Sydney Rabbitohs look like they can compete with the top tier. The next, they're losing to the Bulldogs. The Rabbitohs are coming into the finals hot, but their inconsistency throughout the season is a cause for concern.

For winning the premiership: Their 80 minutes last week is enough reason to believe in the Stats Insider Futures Model's 4.6%. They hung 60 points on the back-to-back premiers and made it look easy. So long as Cody Walker is in the form he's currently in, the Rabbitohs are a chance.

While an injury to Latrell Mitchell threatened to stall their season just as it began to ramp up, Corey Allan has moved into fullback and filled the role well. He doesn't offer everything Mitchell does. However, with Walker also popping up on the right side in Mitchell-like positions to apply the finishing touches to a shift, the Rabbitohs have continued to threaten on both sides of the field.

Against winning the premiership: The Rabbitohs have lacked consistency all season. Their last fortnight of the regular-season sums them up nicely:

Round 19: Lose 26-16 to the then-16th Bulldogs
Round 20: Beat the back-to-back defending premiers 60-8

The Rabbitohs need to win four games if they're to win the premiership from here. While they did win four on the bounce at one stage this season, they came against the Dragons, Broncos, Cowboys and Sea Eagles.

7. Newcastle Knights - 1.0%

The Newcastle Knights are preparing for their first finals match since 2013, but face a tough task if they're to extend their season by another week.

For winning the premiership: In Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga, the Knights have representative players in key playmaking positions. Pearce hasn't been at his best in 2020 and Ponga is struggling for consistency of late, but on their day, the duo can put the Knights into match-winning positions. 

In front of them, Daniel Saifiti is playing out a career year to average 144 running metres per game - up from 98 running metres per game in 2019. Mitchell Barnett's stellar season has him in the State of Origin frame while David Klemmer continues to put the side on his back when necessary. 

We've seen fairytale runs through the finals before. Newcastle has the talent to write their own if things click.

Against winning the premiership: Like the Rabbitohs, the Knights haven't been able to develop any premiership-winning consistency throughout the season. Their last fortnight also tells a story.

Round 19: Beat Dragons 42-18
Round 20: Loss 36-6 to Titans while playing for a home final

In the middle of the road in attack (21.1 points per game - 8th) and defence (18.7 points conceded per game - 7th), the Knights are unlikely to have the four consecutive high-quality performances in them this time around.

8. Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks - 0.8%

While the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks have never threatened the top tier sides in 2020, they've exceeded the expectations many set for them back in February.

For winning the premiership: Rugby league is a funny game. A team can get hot at the right moment and shock the competition into submission. 

Shaun Johnson is a massive loss for the Sharks. He commanded their attack through an NRL-high 23 try assists and is irreplaceable in that squad. However, there are a handful of reasons to be hopeful of a miracle.

Wade Graham, Briton Nikora and Toby Rudolf have the potential to be one of the best backrow trios in the competition. Graham and Nikora have struggled for form, but finals can bring the best out of players. Sione Katoa (15 tries) and Ronaldo Mulitalo (11 tries) have scored 26 tries between them while Jesse Ramien and Josh Dugan offer plenty in attack inside them. Meanwhile, the likes of Will Kennedy and Siosifa Takalai have announced themselves as genuine first-graders in 2020 and will revel in the chance to play finals football.

It's a big ask for the Sharks; few can argue with their 0.8% to win the premiership. But we know better than to not offer a slim chance to the unexpected.

Against winning the premiership: The Sharks finished with 10 wins, 10 losses and a 0 points differential. They looked average all season and finished on the ladder as such.

Beating the bottom eight teams as they should, the Sharks failed to beat a single Top 8 team all season. The numbers highlight the gap:


V Top 8 Teams
V Bottom 8 Teams
Points Scored
16.5
29
Points Conceded
31
19

With Canberra to come in Week 1 and either Penrith or Melbourne on the draw for Week 2 of the finals, the difference between Cronulla's top and bottom eight performances this season is too great for them to rattle off four wins for the premiership.

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Jason Oliver

As far as Jason is concerned, there is no better time of year than March through June. An overlap of the NBA and NRL seasons offer up daily opportunities to find an edge and fund the ever-increasing number of sports streaming services he subscribes to. If there's an underdog worth taking in either code, he'll be on it.

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