News has broken today that the Parramatta Eels have been docked all their competition points for the 2016 season so far as well as being fined and having officials fired, as a result of salary cap cheating.
The reset of their standing to zero premiership points leaves them with 15 games in order to win enough to make the finals. Based on their record and their draw, that looks like it’s possible. The following analysis obviously depends on them maintaining close to their current strength after shedding players, which is obviously an unknowable variable.
12 wins is the target
We believe 12 from their final 15 games wins will guarantee Parramatta finals entry. The NRL is a 16 team competition with 8 finalists so a 50% win rate (12 wins in 24 rounds) should lead to finals qualification. In previous seasons, 12 wins has usually resulted in qualification for finals, while 11 hasn’t. Sometimes teams miss finals with 12 wins due to inferior point difference, but Parramatta already have a healthy point difference of +45 and if they finish on 12 wins from here, that point difference will be improved substantially due to winning a lot of games.
With the points from Parramatta’s six wins still removed from potential rivals for a finals spot (Manly and Canberra), a sneak into the finals on 11 wins might be possible this year. However, for certainty’s sake we’ll call 12 wins the target.
Parramatta’s draw opens up now
Parramatta have so far won six of their nine games, a win-rate of 66.7%. They have so far faced five games against current top-4 teams – two against North Queensland, two against Canterbury, and one against Brisbane. They’ve won three of these five games, and three of four others.
If Parramatta need to win 12 of 15, that’s an 80% win rate, which is an improvement on their 66.7% win rate so far. The teams they’re yet to play have a win percentage of 44.4% on average, compared to 57.4% for those Parramatta have played.
So Parramatta’s win-rate should improve from the 10 wins from 15 games that a 66.7% record projects to from here.
The naive change in expected wins for Parramatta, just from adjusting their current record (66.7%) for their past and future opponents combined records (44.4% vs 57.4%) gives us an expected 86.1% record from here on, or 12.9 expected wins. That is to say, if we take current NRL records as representative of strength, Parramatta should win enough to make finals from here.
If we arrange the remaining games in descending order of difficulty, we see the following:
The games in yellow, against teams with inferior records to Parramatta, will be enough to get the Eels to the target of 12 wins. Jagging a home win against Melbourne or Cronulla would help relieve the pressure, and the last month of games against Brisbane (A), Canberra (H), St George Illawarra (H), and New Zealand (A) may prove to be the pivotal time for the Eels if they can navigate the softer middle part of their schedule successfully.