Illawarra has nothing to play for tomorrow night, except for locking in a match up they don't want (Playing vs Perth). Illawarra can’t miss out on the top 4 because their worst possible result is the 16 win mini pool which would see NZ miss out. Illawarra would much rather finish 4th and play Melbourne- who they’ve done well against this season when they had their full team.
So- they throw the game.
Perth faces the possibility- on Sunday night- of facing Adelaide in the semis if they lose to Adelaide (Because Adelaide have the split on Illawarra and would finish 3rd) or beating the 36ers and playing Illawarra.
This puts Perth in an enviable position because they’ve dominated both Illawarra and Adelaide this season. But losing to Adelaide and letting Adelaide finish 3rd and Illawarra 4th has extra benefits:
- Ensures NZ misses out. Perth would not want to play NZ in the GF.
- Allows Perth to try different matchups and strategies directly before the series. Adelaide won’t have that benefit because they will be purely focused on winning.
- A 36ers team with a recovering Randle is a lesser beast than a full strength Illawarra.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Rob Beveridge is making a few sneaky phone calls to some of his old protégé’s this week, or vice versa. This works for both Illawarra and Perth, and all that needs to happen is that they both throw their games this weekend.
(If I remember correctly, the 16 win mini pool would still have Adelaide finishing 3rd, because the 5-3, 5-3 mini mini pool would arise between Adelaide and Illawarra. Because theyd both be 5-3 in the series including NZ. Adelaide then wins the head to head vs Illawarra. So if Adelaide wins both they should get 3rd spot regardless of what happens in the two Melbourne vs NZ games. But I’d just want someone to confirm that this is how the mini pool works).