Why Knights' winning run means little for NRL finals


Newcastle's hot end to the regular season may mean very little in the finals, with data showing teams on a winning streak rarely carry that form into September.

The most dangerous team of the competition over the past two months, the Knights enter Sunday's elimination final against Canberra off the back of nine straight wins.

Victory on Sunday will put Newcastle within two more wins of a grand final, with the Knights viewed as a genuine contender to win the title from outside the top four.

But history is still not on Newcastle's side.

Fifteen teams have entered the finals on a winning run of six games or more since the start of the NRL era in 1998.

Only one of those has lifted the premiership trophy: Melbourne in 2017. Another two have reached the grand final.

Three have bowed out in week one, while another two have been knocked out in straight sets without winning a game.

Most alarmingly, the data shows teams who have ended the regular NRL season on a hot run have won a combined 15 games in the finals and lost 20.

Newcastle are expected to welcome back Kalyn Ponga (shoulder) and Jackson Hastings (ankle) from injury for Sunday's clash, with Ponga to require a pain-killing injection.

In a big end to the season, the Knights have averaged 35.4 points per game during their last nine matches and conceded 11.6, going from 14th to fifth on the ladder.

But the players are aware they must step up again if they are to win the club's first finals match in 10 years.

"We certainly need to do what we've been doing but we need to do a little bit more as well," back-rower Adam Elliott said. 

"We want to let the blokes in the team that haven't played a finals game know they don't just come around.

"I've been a part of a lot of seasons that I haven't been able to get to the semis."

Giving Newcastle confidence is the fact they have beaten Melbourne, Canberra and Cronulla on their run.

"We haven't just beaten one quality team, we've beaten a few," hooker Phoenix Crossland said.

"We know it wasn't a fluke, which is a really good thing internally for us. We can back it up.

"Although it's a good finish for us to finish fifth, it means nothing if we can't do something in the finals."


Cronulla, 2022: six wins, week-two exit

Roosters, 2022: eight wins, week-one exit

Penrith, 2020: 15 wins, runners-up

Melbourne, 2017: seven wins, premiers

Canberra, 2016: 10 wins, week-three exit

Roosters, 2015: 12 wins, week-three exit

Roosters, 2014: six wins, week-three exit

Cowboys, 2013: six wins, week-one exit

Manly, 2012: six wins, week-three exit

Brisbane, 2012: six wins, week-three exit

Wests Tigers, 2011: eight wins, week-two exit

St George Illawarra, 2005: seven wins, week-three exit

Parramatta, 2001: eight wins, runners-up

North Sydney, 1998: six wins, week-two exit

Manly, 1998: six wins, week-one exit

* Winning run indicates streak team entered finals on.