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Sydney Roosters 2017 Season Review
Bounce back factor propels Tricolours.
Three straight Minor Premierships. Heh. In 2016 the Sydney Roosters were barely able to win three games at one point. Finishing a dismal fifteenth, the club needed a huge turnaround. Player departures, injuries and self-destruction followed the club throughout the year. The structures that had made the club so recently successful flew right out the window. Coming into 2017 the Roosters had made some important signings in South Sydney Premiership winning five-eighth Luke Keary and Parramatta Eels goalkicking fullback Michael Gordon. They also signed Paul Carter but the less said about that one the better.
The new season began with the Auckland Nines. Trent Robinson elected to take a reletively strong side over to the tournament, lead by Mitchell Aubusson. The side were drawn up against the competition favourite North Queensland Cowboys side, who named a full strength team to enter the tournament. The Cowboys took the match 27-15 against the spirited Roosters. Needing to win their last two matches to qualify, the Roosters pipped arch rivals South Sydney 14-7 before disposing the Canberra Raiders 21-0 to advance. The Quarter Final against Brisbane would offer one of the tournament's lowlights to the Broncos international fullback Jordan Kahu. The Roosters took a huge advantage early before the Broncos managed to scrape back to a 15-14 deficit with a shot at goal to come from right in front. However Kahu kicked what would've been the winning goal after the shot clock had sounded (the only player to accomplish this throughout the tournament), hence the Roosters advanced.
The Roosters had their Semi Final against the Melbourne Storm, who also surprised by making it there. Again, the Roosters started the stronger before Melbourne came back to take a 16-15 advantage with under a minute to go. From the kick-off, Connor Watson shot wide to Bernard Lewis, who ran the length of the field to put the Roosters into the final against the young guns of Penrith. The Roosters were once again underdogs going into the big match with Penrith coming into the competition as one of the favourites. But as the script kept writing itself the Roosters stole the show with a grinding 10-8 victory to take the tournament.
The season proper couldn't have started better, the Roosters claimed four straight wins to start the year to lead the competition early. Following a tough loss to Manly, the Roosters brought back memories of 2016 with a 32-8 defeat to Brisbane at Suncorp. The match was famous for Latrell Mitchell's turnaround. Following a benching by Trent Robinson, Mitchell ended up plying his trade for a period at the Wyong Roos before turning his season around late. Another key moment came a fortnight later in the annual ANZAC clash against St George Illawarra. Mitchell Pearce laid all of his nightmares to rest, breaking a horrific drought of eighteen consecutive missed field goal attempts to kick the match winner in Golden Point against the Dragons. The Roosters walked a tightrope, constantly winning their matches closely.
Another spark from Pearce came mid-way through the season in a clash against the table topping Melbourne Storm at Adelaide. With the Roosters trailing 24-6 against a Storm side missing most of their Origin talent, the Tricolours came back to win it in Golden Point, again with a Pearce field goal to take a 25-24 win. The two sides battled again in Melbourne later in the year, the Storm taking a 16-13 victory but more importantly, the Roosters took the confidence that they could stand up against the competition heavyweights. At the end of the regular season the Roosters finished in second place with a record of seventeen wins and seven losses. Following a 24-22 win over Brisbane in the Qualifying Final, the Roosters took a week off to prepare for the Preliminary Final, a match they've lost twice in the past three years. Up against a spirited North Queensland side without co-captains Johnathon Thurston and Matt Scott, the Roosters were expected to breeze through and advance to the Grand Final. However the demons of past years came back and the Roosters stuttered to a disappointing 29-16 defeat, correspondingly ending their season.
While the Roosters proved they could win matches, the lacking of taking big moments in big matches once again caught up to the team. A season that started with hope ended in disappointment.
The old chestnut that a loss late in the season can be a good thing for moving forward, well, that one is true. Late in the season the Roosters visited a ground they've not had the best record in, Brookvale Oval. Up against an out-of-form and desperate Manly side, who had conceeded 110 points in their last two and a half matches, the Roosters came into the match as heavy favourites. The record shown as the Roosters jolted to an 18-4 lead after just a half hour of football. What followed next turned around two seasons. Manly scored 32 unanswered points to secure a convincing 36-18 win, the more points they put on, the more the Roosters crumbled to the pressure. The hunger had gone, the urgency wasn't there. It was a match that gave the Roosters the kick in the teeth they needed.
While they lost the next week (in the aforementioned thriller against Melbourne), the Roosters piled on some high profile wins to enter the finals as a genuine chance of a premiership. Before another aforementioned event.
The Roosters became the kings of clutch in 2017, winning twelve of their eighteen games by six points or less. That subsequently became a new competition record. What really worked was the bonding of a new halves combination in Luke Keary and Mitchell Pearce. Following a season where the Roosters had copious amounts of halves pairings, the consistent pairing of former premiership winners in Keary and Pearce seemingly worked straight from the beginning. Keary certainly came out of the shadows in his maiden year at the Roosters following an incident-laden exit at arch rivals South Sydney.
The Roosters also managed to once again turn their home venue of Allianz Stadium into a genuine fortress, winning nine of ten games there (as compared to five wins from twelve games the season before).
What didn't work
Not surprisingly, discipline. The Roosters made more errors than any other team this year, and it showed. The simple errors were up for show in the Finals Series. Blake Ferguson's inexplicable moment to gift Corey Oates a try in the Qualifying Final, following Latrell Mitchell sending two-kick offs out on the full in the Preliminary Final showcased that the side was not there just yet. Whilst I just mentioned the Roosters being the kings of clutch in a positive way, the Roosters could simply not keep themselves on top of a weaker opponent for so much of the season. The beginning of the season saw a forty minute display of destruction against Gold Coast to lead 28-0 at the break, only to take home a 32-18 victory when they couldn't keep it up.
While many players could definitely hold their head up high as opposed to the handful following the season before, undenyably the Jack Gibson Medal winner Boyd Cordner could once again hold his head up the highest. Cordner once again set a standard going forward, taking the number of carries that others wouldn't. Cordner's performances were rewarded, being given the captaincy of the New South Wales State of Origin team, and the vice-captaincy of the Australian Kangaroos.
Once again, Luke Keary needs to be mentioned. His performances gave the Roosters the consistency it has desperately missed and his partnership with Mitchell Pearce was vital to what the Roosters were providing. Forwards Ryan Matterson, Isaac Liu and Zane Tetevano came right out of the woodwork with fantastic seasons which will boost themselves in years to come, especially with the loss of some experienced forwards for next season.
It's hard to say this one. Whilst every player put their hand up for key moments, the sheer brainfarts (particularly the aforementioned moments with Blake Ferguson and Latrell Mitchell) dampened some extremely successful individual seasons. The Roosters once again had to contend with the injury ward, with plenty of experienced players missing several weeks during the season.
Certainly some experienced players such as Blake Ferguson and Aiden Guerra could've seen better seasons, but they had key moments that contributed to a successful season. So to say they were disappoiting would be extremely facetious.
Look back twelve months, the Roosters blooded an insane thirteen players in 2016. All of them making their National Rugby League debuts. Of those thirteen, only Latrell Mitchell (23 appearances), Ryan Matterson (23), Connor Watson (22), Joseph Manu (16), Nat Butcher (2) and Chris Smith (1) appeared in First Grade this season. In contrast, the Roosters blooded just two first grade debutants this season so it would be rude of me not to mention them both.
Lindsay Collins has been a highly rated young backrower with a questionable haircut in the Roosters system for a few seasons now. Collins managed to get a crack into the first grade squad in two matches this season from the interchange bench. Debuting in Round 12 against the Canberra Raiders, Collins showed some of the quality that has made him a success in the lower grades. Expect him to extend his First Grade resume in the seasons to come.
A local junior in Victor Radley was reportedly asked the same question every week by coach Trent Robinson. "Do you think you're ready to make your NRL debut?" The response every week, "Bloody oath I am." And bloody hell he was. In just his second first grade game he played seventy minutes with what eventually proved to be a broken hand. In a time that would rattle most rookies, Radley made a game-topping 49 tackles playing busted. Despite being in pain he made his mark that proved himself for years to come.
Lower grades/feeder club
Intrust Super Premiership
Many of the Roosters Holden Cup winning 2016 squad made their way to the Wyong Roos feeder club with immediate success. Lead by veteran hooker Mitch Williams, Wyong took the Minor Premiership in the Intrust Super Premiership with 16 wins, 2 draws and just 4 losses during the regular season. But failing to win the championship means the side is just left wondering what could've been. The Grand Final defeat to Penrith, who ironically had plenty of players who played in their Holden Cup loss to the Roosters in the year before, made sure the year was not as perfect as could be.
Plenty of the young Roosters showed promise in this grade, such as Nat Butcher, Joseph Manu and Lindsay Collins. Veteran Fijian bin man Eloni Vunakece had yet another solid season in the competition. Vunakece, alongside centre Matt Ikuvalu and fullback Luke Sharpe earned places in the Team of the Year, as did coach Rip Taylor.
Sharpe's year was extremely impressive, possibly the best player in the team this season. With an insane amount of tackle breaks and metres made per game, Sharpe's game has enjoyed a major growth following a successful time in the Wests Tigers Holden Cup system.
Holden Cup Under 20's
As for the Under 20s, defending their title with a large group of new players was always going to prove to be difficult. The side managed 12 wins, 1 draw and 11 losses, which sadly was good enough for 10th place. The year had plenty of top moments however, with a few highlights. The aforementioned Victor Radley earned a place in the Holden Cup Team of the Year. Starting the season at lock forward scoring a hat trick against the Gold Coast, Radley successfully moved to hooker in a period where he found himself playing NRL. Unfortauntely the aforementioned injury ended his season prematurely, but it's one he can happily look back on.
Central Coast junior Kiah Cooper and Bernard Lewis had particularly successful seasons in the backline, Lewis being highlighted earlier with the runaway try that put the Roosters into the Auckland 9s Grand Final. Back rower Reuben Porter also continually showed his prowess as a potential First Grade talent. The side also contained a son of a gun in Lachlan Lam. Son of Roosters legend Adrian, Lachlan finally enjoyed a consistent year in the Under 20s, a season that has earned him a contract with the First Grade team in seasons to come. Hopefully there is more to come for Roosters fans with younger brother Bailey Lam enjoying a terrific season in the Harold Matthews competition.
The Roosters have lost some of their seasoned players moving forward. Winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall's exit from the Roosters was unceremonious at best, especially after a decade of service for the club. His move to Newcastle eventually proved to be a successful one for him. Veteran back rower Aidan Guerra will join him at the Knights next season, as will young gun Connor Watson. Watson had a terrific start to the season, being named the Player of the Tournament in the Auckland 9s. Unfortauntely Watson's time on the interchange bench in First Grade didn't show many highlights, particularly with the minutes he was sometimes getting. Watson's move to Newcastle will apparently give him a starting spot in the halves, giving him what he needs for his career to boom.
Kane Evans has had a successful time at the Roosters following a terrific career in the lower grades, but early in the season he was announced to be moving to the Parramatta Eels. The other departure from the side was the firing of Paul Carter. Despite having some decent performances in the top grade, once again his off-field decisions were nowhere near as good as the on-field ones. His hand in the Shaun Kenny-Dowall axing, which involved him pleading guilty to supplying Kenny-Dowall cocaine in a Sydney nightclub early in the season was the final nail in the coffin for the club. He was also involved in a recent incident with Blake Ferguson, with the hope of many fans that the players have completely turned their back on the historical badboy Carter.
Moving forward, especially with the success that was 2017, the club have made two noteable signings in James Tedesco and Cooper Cronk. Tedesco's performances for the Wests Tigers and New South Wales will provide the Roosters with a genuine offensive weapon in the years to come. And Cooper Cronk, well, do I need to say anything? However there is an unknown element with the signings coming in, as long staying halfback Mitchell Pearce has yet to decide whether or not he will stay with the club that he has represented for over a decade. Regardless of what happens, the Roosters go into the new season as competition favourites, but will need to find themselves winning all of the big moments if they have any chance of winning their fourteenth premiership.
1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Blake Ferguson 5. Michael Gordon 6. Luke Keary 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Jake Friend (c) 10. Dylan Napa 11. Boyd Cordner (c) 12. Mitchell Aubusson
13. Isaac Liu
Sydney Roosters 32
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 24
Sydney Roosters 14
Sydney Roosters 20
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 18
Sydney Roosters 8
Sydney Roosters 24
St George Illawarra Dragons 12
Sydney Roosters 13
Parramatta Eels 10
Sydney Roosters 24
Sydney Roosters 16
Brisbane Broncos 16
Sydney Roosters 40
Melbourne Storm 24
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 44
South Sydney Rabbitohs 12
Newcastle Knights 4
North Queensland Cowboys 16
Sydney Roosters 18
Sydney Roosters 13
Wests Tigers 18
Sydney Roosters 16
Gold Coast Titans 16
Brisbane Broncos 22
North Queensland Cowboys 29
By the Stats
- Competition Points
- Matches Won
- Matches Drawn
- Matches Lost
- Points Scored
- Points Conceded