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The McIntyre Final Eight System was devised by Ken McIntyre in addition to the McIntyre Four, Five and Six systems. It is a playoff system of the top 8 finishers in a competition to determine which two teams will play in the Grand Final. The teams play each other over three weeks, with two teams eliminated each week. Teams who finish in a higher position in the competition are given an easier route to the Grand Final.

It is currently the finals series system used by the National Rugby League (since 1999) and was used by the Australian Football League from 1994 to 1999. From the 2000 season the AFL replaced it with another top 8 system - interestingly the same one abandoned by the Australian Rugby League in 1996 when they moved to a top 7 and later a top 10 system.

How it Works

Week 1

  • 1st Qualifying Final: 1st vs 8th
  • 2nd Qualifying Final: 2nd vs 7th
  • 3rd Qualifying Final: 3rd vs 6th
  • 4th Qualifying Final: 4th vs 5th

The teams are then ranked depending on whether they won or lost, then on their position on the ladder before the finals. The two lowest ranked losers are eliminated from the finals, whilst the two highest ranked winners progress straight to Week 3.

A key part of an effective MacIntyre system is scheduling. In the first week games must be played in the following order: 4 vs 5, 3 vs 6, 2 vs 7, 1 vs 8. Teams in the first two games are playing for the chance at a bye in the second week of the finals. If the final two games ultimately go as predicted, then the chance at a bye week or the risk of elimination disappears, so those games need to be played last so there is never a situation where two teams know that their result would certainly not matter.

Week 2

  • 1st Semi Final: 4th highest ranked winner vs 2nd highest ranked loser
  • 2nd Semi Final: 3rd highest ranked winner vs 1st highest ranked loser

The two losing teams are eliminated, the two winning teams progress to Week 3.

Week 3

  • 1st Preliminary Final: 2nd highest ranked winner (from Week 1) vs winner of 2nd Semi Final
  • 2nd Preliminary Final: 1st highest ranked winner (from Week 1) vs winner of 1st Semi Final

The two losing teams are eliminated, the two winning teams progress to Week Four.

Week 4

  • Grand Final: winner of 1st Preliminary Final vs winner of 2nd Preliminary Final


The major advantages of the system are the number of different combinations of teams which could make the final game and that no matches are repeated twice in the first three weeks. When compared to other final eight systems, many of which split the participants into two groups, the McIntyre system means only two combinations (1v7 and 2v8) are impossible participants in the Grand Final.

The Top 2 teams after the regular season are rewarded by being given a 'second life' within the finals. If either of these two teams lose to their much lower ranked opponents in the first week, then one of the two losing teams ranked lower than them are eliminated, which means the 1st and 2nd ranked teams can withstand a loss in the finals and their season will continue, albeit with signifcant disadavantages.


With its adoption by the NRL, debate has arisen over its fairness. The McIntyre system rewards teams who have form coming into the finals rather than during the whole season. The advantages given to a victor in the first week of the finals, even if that team is initially ranked 6th to 8th, includes a home final in the second week against a team ranked 3rd to 6th coming off a loss. This advantage given to lower ranked teams that win in the first week are significant compared to the alternate final 8 system used by the AFL, which protects teams coming 1st to 4th from elimination and never give home finals to teams ranked 7th or 8th.

In 2008, the first week of the NRL finals saw the reigning champions and minor premiers the Melbourne Storm lose to the 8th placed New Zealand Warriors. Granted a home final as a week 1 winner, the Warriors then defeated the Sydney Roosters in the second week and proceeded to the final 4, the first team ever to make it that far from 8th position, whereas the Storm had to travel to Brisbane and win away to continue on. This scenario was exceeded in 2009 when the Parramatta Eels, who had finished 8th defeated St George Illawarra Dragons. Parramatta, with a home advantage, proceeded to defeat the Gold Coast Titans in week 2, whereas the Dragons were eliminated from the competition in week 2 in their away match against the Brisbane Broncos. This gave them the dubious distinction of being the first minor premiers to be eliminated after two consecutive losses since the inception of the McIntyre System. Parramatta became the first team ranked last of the finalists to ccontest the Grand Final.

Another criticism is that, like many other top-8 systems, there is the possibility of games in the first week that are effectively meaningless, where teams have no risk of elimination and results only determine respective opponents and home ground advantage in the second week. In the MacIntyre system if first-week results go as planned, then first defeats eighth and second defeats seventh. This leaves the teams who finished from third to sixth effectively playing "dead rubbers" in the first week, with the results merely reshuffling the order of these four teams.

It also possible that in week two, a first week loser may play an easier opponent than the team that defeated them in week one, as happened in 2000

Another anomaly of scheduling is that in the second week a team may play higher ranked opponents than the team they defeated. For example the third highest winner (ie the strongest winner of those playing) plays the highest ranked loser rather than the second highest loser (ie the weakest loser). This may ensure no repetition of games in the second week, but it means higher ranked teams end up with more difficult opponents simply for the sake of more interesting scheduling.


In addition to the NRL, the McIntyre Final Eight System is also used in the Rugby League National League Three in Great Britainmarker, the NSWRL Premier League and Jersey Flegg competitions.

See also


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