Top four left fearing early finals exit - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Top four left fearing early finals exit

By Steve Jancetic and David Beniuk 07/09/2009 06:05:06 PM Comments (0)

Melbourne skipper Cameron Smith believes the inadequacies of the NRL's McIntyre System could be shown up this weekend with top four sides fearing swift exits from the finals series.

The Storm are treating Friday night's grand final re-match with Manly as do-or-die, Smith claiming Melbourne are a very real chance of being the first side in the top four to be eliminated in the opening week.

Smith's fears stem from injury concerns and indifferent end-of-season form of the Bulldogs and Gold Coast which, coupled with the late surge of Newcastle and Parramatta, could be a recipe for disaster for the loser of the fourth versus fifth, Storm-Sea Eagles clash at Etihad Stadium.

Third-placed Gold Coast could be without five-eighth Mat Rogers (hamstring) when they host Brisbane on Saturday night, while question marks remain over the second-placed Bulldogs' ability to cope without injured playmaker Brett Kimmorley ahead of their qualifying final against Newcastle.

Then there is the enigma that is Parramatta, as they look to return to the form that gave them seven straight wins before their last-round hiccup against St George Illawarra when the teams face a rematch on Sunday.

If two of the Knights, Parramatta or Brisbane win, then either the Storm or Sea eagles will bow out.

"Certainly we see it as do or die for us from here on in - we're not too sure how the results are going to go on the weekend," Smith said at Monday's Captain's call in Sydney.

"We know that four versus five is not guaranteed second week if you lose.

"The way the Knights can perform and the way Parramatta can perform, they could quite easily beat the top two teams."

Only once has a side from the four versus five game been eliminated in the first week, with St George Illawarra going out as the fifth-placed side in 2004.

Smith said the McIntyre system failed to offer adequate rewards for a top four finish and the AFL's system was far fairer.

The two highest-ranked NRL winners progress to a preliminary final and a weekend off while the two lowest-ranked losers bow out. The other four teams progress to the semi-finals in week two.

"The AFL system, where if you put yourself in a position to be in the top four, you've done a pretty good job throughout the year, and no matter what, in the AFL those sides always get a second week," Smith said.

"I think that's a good reward for the opportunity that you create for your team.

"In our game, three and four can be out in the first week."

Despite Brisbane finishing sixth, Smith found an ally in his dislike of the McIntyre system in Broncos skipper Darren Lockyer.

"The top four teams shouldn't be at risk of being eliminated. I just think the AFL system seems to be a bit fairer," Lockyer said.

"They (the top four sides) deserve to be safe."

Smith felt the wrath of the McIntyre system in 2008, when as minor premiers, they were forced to play away to Brisbane in week two of the finals after a shock first-sup loss to the Warriors.

The Warriors, despite squeaking into the finals in eighth, then had the benefit of home ground advantage in week two against he Sydney Roosters.

Parramatta skipper Nathan Cayless said the Warriors' efforts last year - in which they became the first eight-ranked team to beat the minor premiers - had given the Eels the belief they could do likewise against St George Illawarra on Sunday.

"Yeah, it can be done ... it has been done before, there's been so many huge upsets throughout the history of sport, it's just a matter of us believing in ourselves," Cayless said.

"I think the previous couple of months has given us a lot of confidence, we know if we play well as a team that's the key."

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