The McIntyre System is no more. Abandoned in 1999 by the AFL, and mystifyingly adopted by the old ARL the same year, the completely inexplicable system has at last been ditched on the same useless rugby league scrapheap as John Hopoate and the Western Reds.

The old McIntrye computer has outlived its usefulness

Oh wait, they’re now talking about another Perth team again, aren’t they? Anyway, McIntyre is gone. This is good. No disrespect to the venerable mathematician, the late Ken McIntyre, but his system had all the user-friendliness of a sudoku crossed with a cryptic crossword written in Mandarin.

Today’s decision was handed down by the new ARL Commission, which was clearly keen to broker some sort of peace with NRL club chief executives who are in the process of forming their own lobby group. The commission was no doubt also trying to tell fans it is listening to them. Mission accomplished.

No fan liked the McIntyre system. Not one. Explaining it in full would be like explaining the laws of cricket to an American, but the gist was that team 1 played 8, team 2 played 7, team 3 played 6 and team 4 played 5. After that, things got weird and it became a lottery.

Example. Last year, the Tigers finished fourth, beat the reigning premiers the first week and were “rewarded” – punished, more like – by having to play a sudden death match the following week.

In the AFL system, if the team that finished fourth wins its first final, it gets a richly-deserved week off before a preliminary final.

The AFL system is not perfect. No team outside the top four has come close to making a dent in the finals for years, while the last three NRL grand finals have featured teams that came from 6th, 6th and 8th.

Whether this reflects the evenness of the NRL competition or the quirks of McIntyre remains to be seen. Hopefully, teams outside the top four will still be able to make grand finals. If they do, we’ll at last be able to say that they’ve really, really earned it.

So well done rugby league, and well done the Commission, who were no doubt hoping to hear words to this exact effect. In fact, it’s probably the reason they made the change.

Either that or they were desperate for a news story, any news story, to mask the oncoming PR disaster when tonight’s season launch goes horribly wrong, as it does pretty much every year.

Most commented


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    • DaisyDuke says:

      03:21pm | 22/02/12

      Finals where if you progressed or not depending on the results of the other games were ridicuous. It is amazing they stuck with it so long.

    • TimB says:

      05:06pm | 22/02/12

      That’s not entirely accurate. The key to a teams progression was if they won or not. As long as you win, the results of the other games don’t matter. It’s only if the team loses that fate steps in.
      Which is no different from the regular season. The final scramble for a top 8 spot in the last few rounds is almost always determined by losing teams hoping other results go their way.

      In short- You want to get to the to the big game you gotta win. That’s no different under McIntyre or any other finals system.

    • Bertrand says:

      08:13pm | 22/02/12

      Personally, the whole concept of finals is ridiculous.

      Like most European soccer leagues do, the premiership should be awarded to the team that finishes first at the end of the season.

      Finals exist to make the leagues more money, not to decide which team was the best team of the season.

    • stephen says:

      03:35pm | 22/02/12

      The NRL would have kept with their system for so long because viewer and audience numbers would have decreased if the AFL system was used.

      And why in the AFL the Grand Final is so spectacular is because of the build-up over the four best teams slugging it out to the final two.

      So there’s a bet each way with each system : whether a 6th order team can win a Final, thereby offering the chance of more audience support, or having an enormous MCG that can seat 120,000 and knowing that, realistically, only one of the four final’s series teams can win.
      But there is a big build up in AFL at the end of the year, and I think that the NRL wants a piece of the action, and probably for TV rights, too.

    • Tim says:

      03:44pm | 22/02/12

      So why don’t the AFL go to a four team finals system then?

      The NRL is a much closer competition and I won’t be surprised if a team from the bottom 4 make a deep run in the finals this year regardless of the system used.

    • Hacksaw says:

      03:51pm | 22/02/12

      The NRL out rated the AFL last season. So I don’t think it was kept because of ratings.

      More because of the natural inertia that occurs when ever a change of management of an organisation is about to occur.

    • Bill says:

      07:45pm | 22/02/12

      Hacksaw, stop spreading the myth that the NRL outrates the AFL.

      The AFL is twice as popular as the NRL and the TV ratings reflect this. FACT.

      How’s those expansion plans going?

    • Bertrand says:

      08:23pm | 22/02/12

      @Bill - why do we need to take a dig at either code?

      As a sports lover I enjoy both. Following a code of football doesn’t have to be an ‘either or’ proposition.

    • SD says:

      08:57pm | 22/02/12

      Hacksaw Pay TV programs you fool!!!! AFL is only pay TV in a serious way this year whereas NRL has stuff all on free to air so its pay TV or nothing. Let’s see how it goes this year. If you seriously think NRL is even close to AFL in overall exposure, professionalism, dollars, players salary you obviously don’t get out of Sydney enough, or at all. But then again Sydney and the Telegraph both think they are Gods gifts to earth! I’m from neutral territory btw, ACT.

    • Tim says:

      09:05pm | 22/02/12

      ACT neutral territory?
      Sorry the only people that think that are expat Victorians.
      The ACT is a League and Union town.

    • Hacksaw says:

      09:08pm | 22/02/12

      1. Friday night football and the SOO both free to air flogged anything the AFL have to offer.

      2. The AFL had a whole footy channel it went bust due to lack of interest. That said all, the AFL games like the NRL games where available to all either via pay TV or free to air. The NRL won, hands down.

      These are facts. That makes you the fool.

    • Bill says:

      09:08pm | 22/02/12

      Hacksaw - your links only PROVE that AFL is more popular than NRL.

      First link - you only mention the small numbers of people with foxtel. When you add in the free to air figures, AFL easily outrates NRL. See : . AFL win.

      Second link : You include the numbers from a second country (adding another 700,000 viewers). For an honest explanation of the respective Grand Final audiences, see The AFL GF was the seventh most watched program in 2011, compared to the NRL GF at thirteenth, with half a million fewer fans. AFL win.

      Third link : You refer to an unnamed ‘press report’ which actually claimed that AFL has a higher average of viewers per club than the NRL. Another AFL win.

      The AFL has just signed a TV rights deal worth $1.25 BILLION, while the NRL’s last deal was only worth $500 million. Why would the networks pay so much more to broadcast AFL if it was watched by fewer people than the NRL? That’s because it isn’t. Try using some common sense, Hacksaw.

      The AFL is the world’s third most-attended professional sports competition in the WORLD, while rugby usually gets fewer than 10,000 people to its matches. AFL win yet again.

    • Bill says:

      09:47pm | 22/02/12

      Hacksaw - read the links. The AFL outrated the NRL in every home and away round, in all the finals, and obviously the Grand Final.

      Where the hell do you get the idea that rugby is more popular than footy when the AFL slaughters the NRL in every category and every statistic you care to nominate?

    • SD says:

      10:00pm | 22/02/12

      Hacksaw you’re obviously just a typical sydneyfile with your head so far up your arse you’ll never be able to see straight. You’re right, Sydney is the centre of the universe and NRL is the greatest game in the world. Just keep telling yourself that as you stand out at Leichhardt with the other 6000 in the crowd or 7000 at Penrith. I’ve lived in Canberra for 95% of my life so I’m not an expat anything, and I follow EVERYTHING so I am neutral. Love the Brumbies and AFL and used to be on the NRL but have come to the conclusion that staunch leagies are usually retards..

    • Hacksaw says:

      06:13am | 23/02/12


      1. You’re talking about 2011 results using research from 2009-2010.

      2. You’re talking about survey data versus actual figures from cable companies.

      The NRL out rated AFL, read the articles.

      @SD - nasty and dumb doesn’t make you right unfortunately.

    • Tim says:

      03:35pm | 22/02/12

      Thank God,

      I still remember back in 2000 when the Raiders finished 4th and beat the Panthers first round of the finals.
      For our trouble, we got to play the Roosters, who finished 2nd at the SFS, while the Panthers got to play Parramatta who finished 7th.

      Ridiculous and there’s hundreds of other examples of why it sucked sooo bad.

      Good Riddance.

    • TimB says:

      05:07pm | 22/02/12

      Maybe the Raiders should have done better than 4th place then.

      There’s a reason the Roosters got the advantage.

    • Tim says:

      05:27pm | 22/02/12

      Above you say that the key to a teams progression was winning.
      The Raiders won, the Roosters lost yet the Roosters got the advantage.
      The Panthers lost, yet they got the advantage.

      And its happened a hundred times, it was a woeful system.

    • TimB says:

      06:02pm | 22/02/12

      Progression and advantage are two seperate things Tim.

      By losing in Week 1 the Roosters didn’t get a free pass to Week 3. They were forced into a sudden death match in Week 2. I’d view that as a penalty.

      The Raiders had a harder run through because they finished lower. It’s that simple.

    • Tim says:

      07:18pm | 22/02/12

      But the team they beat, the Panthers got an advantage out of losing and they finished lower than the Raiders. If you were right they should have been punished.
      Any finals system where a team can be better off by losing is a poor one in my opinion.

    • TimB says:

      07:32am | 23/02/12

      Tim, Canberra got their advantage over Penrith when they played them in Week 1- a Home Final. Why do you expect Canberra to keep getting an advantage over Penrith going into week 2 even though they weren’t going to play them this time?

      In the actual Week 2 game, Penrith played Parramatta. Penrith finished above Parramatta, so Penrith got the advantage in that game.

      The other thing you fail to take into consideration is that by Penrith losing to the Canberra in that first week, they also ran a risk of being eliminated completely.

      Even if the results could potentially throw up a quirk of getting an ‘easier’ game (as happened here), such a result is impossible to predict and no team would be silly enough to throw Week 1 and risk elimination on the chance they might get an easier Week 2 game.

    • MarkS says:

      08:24am | 23/02/12

      “The AFL system is not perfect. No team outside the top four has come close to making a dent in the finals for years”

      I do not see this as a problem. The top four should have an advantage of the bottom four. The issue is that 1 is not advantaged over 2.

      I liked leagues old 5 team finals system. Being first was a genuine advantage.

    • Tim says:

      09:53am | 23/02/12

      that’s my point. The fact that such a result is impossible to predict is the reason the finals system needed to be changed.
      The fact that its even possible for a lowly ranked team to benefit by losing means the system is crap.

    • TimB says:

      11:59am | 23/02/12

      Tim why should you be able to predict a result? Why allow teams the ability to game the system with strategic losses?

    • Tim says:

      12:50pm | 23/02/12

      Wait, What?
      Strategic losses? Why would any team do that?
      Has it ever happened?

      In the new system, the top four is rewarded more with a guaranteed second chance.
      If a team in the top four win in week one they are rewarded with a week off straight into the preliminary final.
      If they lose, they have to play the following week to get into the prelim.
      If a team in the bottom four win, they are rewarded with progression to the second week.
      If they lose they are punished with being out of the finals.

      I don’t know how you can get fairer than that.

    • Sean says:

      03:37pm | 22/02/12

      It’s all subjective. On one hand, people would argue that a team that finishes 8th shouldn’t even be allowed to challenge for the title. On the other hand, some people like an even competition. Personally, I just want to see my teams win something for once, in any competition.

    • Simpleton says:

      03:45pm | 22/02/12

      A commission surely means people smarter than the average footballer running the game. Hopefully some more sensible decisions will follow. Sorry Mr Mac but why a mathematician was required to draw up the finals system I don’t know. Sounds like a recipe for making it needlessly complicated.

    • fairsfair says:

      03:50pm | 22/02/12

      The best part is that now QLD have shifted their Queen’s Birthday Weekend to October - we now get the day off afterwards like NSW do.

      Its all falling into place… Cowboys FTW 2012!!

      (pfffthahaha, sorry I too am laughing at that)

    • Tim says:

      04:32pm | 22/02/12

      Well at least you cane toads are learning.

      Now instead of going to work with a hangover, you can sleep in like the rest of us after the GF.

    • Flutz says:

      08:38pm | 22/02/12

      Meh - I always gave myself my own public holiday and took the Monday off anyway

    • Hacksaw says:

      03:54pm | 22/02/12

      I didn’t hate the old system and I never understood why people found it hard to understand.

      But that said I can see why people didn’t like it particularly the clubs with reaching the top 4 not being very well rewarded. This change should really spice up the race among the top 8 teams heading into the finals.

    • TimB says:

      05:11pm | 22/02/12

      I too had no trouble understanding the system. Ant’s confusion mystifies me.

      And the top 4 teams were very well rewarded. They got a home final and a shot at free pass to week 3. I couldn’t believe the whining that came from St George fans when they were beaten in the first week of the finals and no longer had an advantage going into sudden-death week 2. They lost the 1st week therefore they forfeit their advantage. If they wanted to keep it they should have won. It’s that simple.

    • marley says:

      05:46pm | 22/02/12

      @TimB -could you please explain, in simple terms, what the hell everyone is talking about, because as a mere new Aussie I haven’t got a clue.

    • TimB says:

      06:05pm | 22/02/12

      Its the draw format for the NRL finals Marley. Everyone is debating the relative fairness of the old system & the new. wink

    • the captain coach says:

      03:59pm | 22/02/12

      the greatest game of all has become the smartest game of all

    • Bill says:

      07:42pm | 22/02/12

      Become? AFL has ALWAYS been the smartest game of all.

      Six million people going to the game every year can’t be wrong.

    • Punters Pal says:

      04:03pm | 22/02/12

      Despite the defective McIntyre system, it is hard to argue that any of the teams which got into Grand Final, did not deserve to be there. Even the last three teams which made it from 6th, 6th and 8th position - Warriors, Roosters and Eels, all were running into good from towards end of the season. Shame none of them were competitive once they got there.

      Very similar system in NFL, where NY Giants just squeezed into the finals and were the lowest ranked team in NFC. Still, it was no hindrance for them to win the Super Bowl.

      I agree that the new system actually rewards the teams who are strong during the regular season and not just running into hot form towards the end of it.

    • Ash Wednesday says:

      04:19pm | 22/02/12

      Only the best teams will now be in the Grand Final.
      Fluke lucky grand finalists are no more !

    • sunny says:

      04:20pm | 22/02/12

      I only just read this on Fox Sports and posted a comment over there but will post it again here. I don’t like the new system! I reckon in week one, teams 3 and 4 can have a good bludge knowing they have a guaranteed home game in week two. They don’t even have to show up!

      There’s something pretty special about the first week of the finals. It’s like the first week of high school. Under the McIntyre system even teams 3 and 4 could get knocked out in the first week,  so there was urgency in the atmosphere; every game had some real excitement / do-or-die about it.

      The McIntyre system was not perfect as Tim said with that Panther/Raiders/2000 example. But it was designed to eliminate bludging.. or even worse - the strategic loss.

      ..and also re..
      “Last year, the Tigers finished fourth, beat the reigning premiers the first week and were “rewarded” – punished, more like – by having to play a sudden death match the following week.”  Reigning premiers (or anything related to last year’s result) has nothing to do with this year’s finals.

    • sunny says:

      04:21pm | 22/02/12

      I only just read this on Fox Sports and posted a comment over there but will post it again here. I don’t like the new system! I reckon in week one, teams 3 and 4 can have a good bludge knowing they have a guaranteed home game in week two. They don’t even have to show up!

      There’s something pretty special about the first week of the finals. It’s like the first week of high school. Under the McIntyre system even teams 3 and 4 could get knocked out in the first week,  so there was urgency in the atmosphere; every game had some real excitement / do-or-die about it.

      The McIntyre system was not perfect as Tim said with that Panther/Raiders/2000 example. But it was designed to eliminate bludging.. or even worse - the strategic loss.

      ..and also re..
      “Last year, the Tigers finished fourth, beat the reigning premiers the first week and were “rewarded” – punished, more like – by having to play a sudden death match the following week.”  Reigning premiers (or anything related to last year’s result) has nothing to do with this year’s finals.

    • Chris Topher says:

      04:25pm | 22/02/12

      Your logic of the 4th placed team not having an advantage by winning in the MacIntyre system but having an advantage in the new system is flawed. In the new system the 4th placed team was disadvantaged having to play the 1st placed team, under the MacIntyre system they were advantaged by only having to play the 5th placed team.

      The MacIntyre system wasn’t a bad system and I can’t think of an instance of it producing an unworthy premier. The main problem is people analysing sport are usually pretty short sighted and can’t see there’s advantages and drawbacks to most systems.

    • SD says:

      04:35pm | 22/02/12

      Sunny I’m guessing you don’t know anything about the AFL? that has the same system as this will be. teams 3 and 4 aren’t going to have a ‘bludge’ at all. they’re playing for a chance at a premiership. If they win they go straight through to the prelim and history shows in AFL under this system its pretty hard to win 4 in a row. The teams that go straight through usually win the title, so yes they will be playing for sheep stations.

    • sunny says:

      06:43am | 23/02/12

      @SD Yeah I don’t know that much about AFL but I started to take a bit of an interest when I got Fox sports on .. and surprisingly I don’t mind the game.

      A stats question for you re the AFL finals: In week one of the finals, how often have teams 3 or 4 won?
      I’m no statistician smile but I would expect it to be about 33%. If it’s way lower than this, maybe it indicates that these teams are falling back on their week 2 guarantee too readily.

      Anyway it’s in (NRL) , so we shall have to see how it goes in this year’s finals.

    • Alfie says:

      05:03pm | 22/02/12

      State of Origin - check
      Commission - check
      Finals System - check

      Just follow what the most successful sporting competition in Australia does and you can’t go wrong!

    • Tim says:

      05:30pm | 22/02/12

      The NRL had the system first and then changed.
      Who’s following who?

    • TimB says:

      05:18pm | 22/02/12

      Didn’t think there was anything wrong with the McIntyre system. If you win you got rewarded, if you lost you got punished. Teams that finished higher on the ladder got an advantage over lower ranked teams. Lower ranked teams had a harder run to the end as befits their finishing position.

      I’ll wait and see how the new system plays out, but IMO the whining about McIntyre was completely unwarranted.

    • J says:

      06:58pm | 22/02/12

      Wow, I really wish people would stop using the very bad example of last year’s finals series while pointing to the failures of the McIntyre system. It wasn’t a failure at all. The Tigers beat the reigning premiers, yes, but you failed to mention that team (Dragons) placed FIFTH in the current year (the one that actually matters, rather than provides a soundbite and reminder of the past), AND the fact that under the new system the Tigers would instead have been pitted against the Storm, and almost certainly have lost and been playing the Warriors (coming off a home win - going off seeds - against the Cowboys) anyway - the exact same matchup! Both systems have flaws, but neither system is much better than the other. I will give you one thing though - it’s a lot easier to explain the new/old system than the McIntyre, to those who aren’t familiar with the latter.

    • Mahhrat says:

      07:15pm | 22/02/12

      I laugh and I laugh.  Why have finals at all?  Simply, whomever is on top at the end of the H&A is the winner.

      Works for EPL, the biggest league on the planet.

    • TS says:

      07:28pm | 22/02/12

      Came here to post this. Finals systems suck.

    • Reader says:

      09:00pm | 22/02/12

      Don’t have a problem with that but the GF is too ingrained in our culture and we do enjoy it. Also the draw isn’t even like in EPL.

    • Arnold Layne says:

      10:04pm | 22/02/12

      Good point made by Reader.  You have to have finals when teams don’t play each other twice.  The other reason that “first past the post” works in European football is that they have relegation, therefore there’s (ahem) excitement at both ends.  No finals, or a lesser number of teams qualifying, would make for a large number of meaningless games in August.

    • Tim says:

      07:00am | 23/02/12

      Because not having a finals system is boring.

      Ohhhhh, now I get why soccer fans might like it.

    • Davo says:

      10:23pm | 22/02/12

      The reason that the EPL and other European/S.American leagues don’t have finals is that there are a number of tournaments/cups held through the year that incorporate a final. Champions league, Carling Cup, etc… these all have a ‘Final’ so the clubs can get their ‘one big day’. AFL and NRL need the finals because there are no other competitions. (NAB cup hardly counts) Oh and being an Ex-pat South Australian now living in QLD, I went to a number of NRL game last year and know I know why people would rather watch it on TV. It doesn’t even get close to AFL in terms of a spectacle! (I was willing to give it a chance..)

    • Bill says:

      11:35pm | 22/02/12

      Hey, Davo, be nice to the rugby fans. They have to endure the fact that their sport is both boring and irrelevant nationally.

      Still, they do get to heaps of space to themselves if they ever actually go to a game.

    • Tim says:

      10:02am | 23/02/12

      Rugby League is made for TV because you can actually see the entire play happening on the screen unlike AFL where you only see the immediate area where the ball is.
      As for going to the games, I’ve been to a lot of AFL games and without binoculars you can’t even see what’s happening for most of the game. The ball is usually more than 75m away from you. Yeah, what a spectacle.

    • Powerball says:

      10:41am | 23/02/12

      The Australian obsession with Finals football nicely mirrors the way this country loves to reward losers.

      Finishing the season as clearly the best team doesn’t mean anything here unless you win the ‘Finals’.


      While I’m here I may as well also say that I think AFL is by far the worst professional sport in the world.

      One suburb of Melbourne against another played out to the sound of screaming children watching a clusterf**k of lanky men fight over a bouncy peanut.

      It’s a sport which could have been lovingly created for Australia’s sizable gay male community with those super tight shorts and all those lovely guns out.

      And where exactly does a glittering career in AFL get you? Given the three ex-pros on my floor, usually a job in banking, assuming you attended the right school or sucked on the right born to rule Melbourne d**kheads.

      How incredibly depressing.

      Any sport where the best paid man in the sport is the overweight CEO is by definition crap.

      It’s without question the game they play in hell.

    • David Toohey says:

      01:53pm | 23/02/12

      Sharwood’s view that the McIntyre System is “a sudoku crossed with a cryptic crossword written in Mandarin” is a massive overstatement.

      If you win in the first week, good. The top two ranked winners get a week off, the other two winners get to host a (Semi) Final in the second week. Also, the two highest-ranked losers from the First Week of the Finals get a second chance. The Finals then become ‘sudden-death’ from there.

      By abandoning this Finals system in the favour of the (useless) AFL one, you’ll find that the top 4 sides will almost always compete in the Preliminary Finals and in the Grand Final every season. Eventually, both AFL and NRL fans will realise that- under this new finals’ system- that teams who finish 5th to 8th play a ‘symbolic’ part in the finals; that is, they will rarely play in the Preliminary, let alone in the Grand Final.

      My argument overall here is that the finals system should concerntrate purely on winning; the top sides deserve a home ground advantage in the first week, fine. But to give the top 4 teams an automatic double-chance (as well as home-ground advantage) in the second week if they lose, is hardly fair on the teams in the bottom-ring of the finals. If your favouraite NRL (or AFL) team finishes 5th, you’ll know what I mean.


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