Sydney Roosters – 2014 NRL Preview

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In the 2013 NRL season, the Roosters climbed to the top of the mountain. They claimed their first premiership since 2002 and did so in impressive fashion. Do they have a good chance to repeat? In the final part of his 16-part preview of the 2014 NRL season, read what Daniel Boss thinks about the Roosters’ chances.

2013 review

In 2013, the Roosters collected their 13th first grade premiership, which was their first since 2002. On their way to winning the title, they won 12 of their last 14 games; an incredible stretch. They have given hope to those rugby league supporters who want to see less structured attack, as they were able to combine a basic structure with a fair bit of instinctive play. I refuse to say the word adlib as it has a negative connotation. They combined this with a stout defence, which was led by their rugged forward pack. As the statistics show, 2013 was a great year for the Bondi boys.

The improvement in both attack and defence for the Roosters in 2013 was nothing short of remarkable. In attack, they scored over seven points per game more in 2013 than they did in 2012 and in 2013 their conceded just over half the points that they conceded in 2012. Compared to the rest of the league, the 2013 Roosters attack scored over six points per game more than the average points scored per game throughout the season. In defence, they conceded just less than seven points less than the average points conceded per game. This improvement can be attributed to their star signings from last season as well as new coach Trent Robinson. With essentially the same squad in 2014, the Roosters will be tough to beat.

Outside backs

The back three from last year, Anthony Minichiello, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Daniel Tupou, are all in the squad in 2014. Minichiello is the steady influence at the back, while Tuivasa-Sheck and Tupou are both future stars of the game, if they aren’t already. Some of the efforts of the two wingers to score tries last season were quite outstanding. With the departure of Michael Oldfield, the only recognised back-up to these three is Shaun Kenny-Dowall, who will be starting in the centres. Kenny-Dowall’s partner in the centres is Michael Jennings, one of the best centres in the league. His signing was a reason for their stronger attacking numbers in 2013. Jennings will be looking to retain his NSW jersey in 2014, following the strong form of Jarryd Hayne at centre in the World Cup. In regards to recognised back-ups in the centres, the Roosters do have back rowers who can cover if needed, in the likes of Mitch Aubusson and Aidan Guerra. If they do get an injury in the back three, then it is likely that they will play Aubusson or Guerra in the centres and move Kenny-Dowall to a wing.

Halves

The NSW halves combination of James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce are the combination for the Roosters and should be more confident following the Roosters’ premiership success. Pearce will be looking for a strong start to the season, as he is under a lot of pressure to retain his origin spot as he has been halfback for the past three series defeats. The Roosters do possess some depth in the halves with Daniel Mortimer, Samisoni Langi and Sonny Bill Williams, who could cover if needed.

Front row

The Roosters have lost a bit of depth at prop, following the retirement of Luke O’Donnell and the departures of Martin Kennedy, Jack Bosden and Tinirau Arona. Even with these losses, the club still has starters Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Sam Moa in the squad, who are a hard-headed combination to say the least. Other recognised props in the squad include Isaac Lui, Dylan Napa and Kane Evans. Evans has a lot of wraps on him and was denied a first grade debut last season due to second tier salary cap restrictions. It will be interesting to see how he backs up all of the talk about him. At hooker, the Roosters have the highly underrated Jake Friend. A few years ago, Friend could not stay out of trouble off the field. However, he has cleaned up his act off the field and his form on the field has improved substantially as well. It’s a real credit to him, now that he has usurped the back-up Queensland hooker position from Matt Ballin. Friend should again be spelled by Daniel Mortimer at hooker this season. My former Orange CYMS teammate provides energy and strong support play off the bench. He helped turn the momentum of the game towards the Roosters early in the first half of last year’s decider. Heath L’Estrange has also been signed and also provides cover at hooker if needed.

Back row

The Roosters also have quite a lot of quality depth in the back row. Of course, the big star of the back row is Sonny Bill Williams, who will be looking to have a big season in the last of his second tenure of the NRL. Again, he will be one of the keys for the side, as he is the best back rower in the world who has ball playing ability that rivals some of the better players in the competition. The other likely starts are Boyd Cordner and Frank-Paul Nu’uausala. These two are very contrasting in style as Cordner is a great hole runner at the edge of the ruck and gets through a lot of work in defence, while Nu’ uausala is a wrecking ball both in name and nature. I sure hope that he was the inspiration for Miley Cirus’ song. Other recognised back rowers in the squad include Mitch Aubusson and Aidan Guerra. Both would likely be starting in the back row for other teams. The Roosters are blessed to have both to cover for any injuries to their starters.

Bench

The Roosters had a bench structure of one hooker, two front rowers and one back rower. I believe that they will maintain the same bench structure as they essentially have the same squad as last season. Daniel Mortimer and Mitch Aubusson will likely retain bench positions and between these two, they can cover any backline position, which removes the need to carry a back on the bench. I will be looking for Dylan Napa to bring a big impact from the bench, as he is a firebrand who can hit hard in defence.

Coach

In one season as a head coach in the NRL, Trent Robinson has earned the reputation as one of the best and most innovative coaches in the league. Unlike a fair few current NRL coaches, he encourages his players to play what they rather than what the set play is. As a result, they are a very entertaining side to watch play football. Robinson mentioned in an interview last year that he believes that an attacking revolution is about to come into the lead. If there were more coaches like him, then I believe that he would be right. I hope he is right.

Best squad

  1. Anthony Minichiello
  2. Daniel Tupou
  3. Michael Jennings
  4. Shaun Kenny-Dowall
  5. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
  6. James Maloney
  7. Mitchell Pearce
  8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
  9. Jake Friend
  10. Sam Moa
  11. Boyd Cordner
  12. Sonny Bill Williams
  13. Frank-Paul Nu’uausala
  14. Daniel Mortimer
  15. Mitchell Aubusson
  16. Kane Evans
  17. Dylan Napa

Prediction

1st.  The last time a team won back to back premierships was in 1998, where the Brisbane Broncos won back to back premierships. I believe that the Roosters will do it in 2014. Their squad is the best in the league by a fair margin and most are still quite young, which means that they should be better this season than they were in 2013. The only questions are how the Roosters will handle being the benchmark of the league, with every opposing team being at their best when they play them. Also, it can be argued motivation may be an issue after winning a premiership, but the dynamic of the side will change after the season with the departure of SBW. As a result, I see no reason for a lack of motivation as this is the last chance that this particular group of players can win a premiership together.

2014 Ladder Prediction

  1. Sydney Roosters
  2. South Sydney Rabbitohs
  3. Canterbury Bulldogs
  4. Manly Sea Eagles
  5. Melbourne Storm
  6. Penrith Panthers
  7. Newcastle Knights
  8. North Queensland Cowboys
  9. Cronulla Sharks
  10. Gold Coast Titans
  11. St George Illawarra Dragons
  12. Brisbane Broncos
  13. New Zealand Warriors
  14. Wests Tigers
  15. Parramatta Eels
  16. Canberra Raiders
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