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The most accurate description of the Tricolours over the last few years
has to be 'consistently inconsistent'. After a strong 2008 campaign
which didn't quite have the legs, some off-season dramas and a lack of
experience from rookie coach Brad Fittler saw the 2009 season over
before it had begun. The Todd Carney led revival in 2010 took fans to
the dizzying heights of a Grand Final appearance, but yet again
off-field dramas, injuries and attitude problems resulted in 2011 being a
complete let down, culminating in Carney and QLD Origin forward Nate
Myles playing their last games for Easts.
Despite these losses, 2011 finished on a high note, finishing with 4 wins in a row. Optimistic fans see this as a sign of hope for the future - hopefully without the distractions that saw the last season derailed, the side might be able to utilise its potential. The young forward pack is massively underrated and capable of competing with the best in the competition, boasting talents like Martin Kennedy, Jake Friend, Lama Tasi, Mose Masoe, Jared Warea-Hargreaves, Mitch Aubusson and up-and-comer Boyd Cordner. The halves are arguably one of the best combinations in the NRL if their forwards give them a solid platform. 23 year old Mitchell Pearce will be looking for his 3rd State of Origin series, and Braith Anasta will be relishing a return to 5/8th after nearly two years in the second row. On the other hand, many are tipping the Roosters to miss the finals for the second year running, pointing to a perceived lack of creativity in the halves, an aging Anthony Minichiello at the back, and a lack of potency and depth in the backline as major weaknesses. Sam Perrett, Sean Kenny-Dowall and BJ Leilua are all talented but inconsistent, and at least one spot in the backline is still undecided, with Toyota Cup star Tautau Moga likely to get the nod.
All opinions aside, the Roosters squad will no doubt be coming into Round 1 with a massive point to prove. With the losses of veteran forwards Nate Myles and Jason Ryles and a renewed focus on youth development by recruitment manager Peter O'Sullivan, Easts come into 2012 boasting the youngest squad in the competition. Sam Perrett, Anthony Minichiello and Braith Anasta are the only players over the age of 25. Whether this results in inconsistency or enthusiasm will largely come down to the influence of Coach Brian Smith and Captain Braith Anasta. With a new contract signed amid much drama and a move back to the halves, Anasta will (rightly or wrongly) need to justify himself to his critics with some early form. Brian Smith is still searching for that elusive first premiership.
Roosters certainly have the potential to cause some problems in 2012. Whether they do or not depends on attitude.
Why they'll win it
A powerful and enthusiastic forward pack led by a quality playmaking combination of Friend, Pearce and Anasta. Big-hitters Kennedy and Tasi will be making big metres up front allowing Anasta and Pearce to create space for the likes of Aubusson and Kenny-Dowall to put on some points. Will be very hard to stop when they get a roll on.
Why they won't
Inconsistency, ill-discipline and handling errors have been their worst enemy for years. Even in 2010 the Roosters were among the most highly penalised teams in the competition. Hopefully Smith has finally addressed this gaping issue. If injuries strike in the backline depth becomes a massive issue, the top 17 is already very young.
Player to watch
Too many to list, but Martin Kennedy stands out. Looked the goods before a foot injury ended his 2011 season, he will be looking to jump up to a QLD Origin bench spot this year or next. Sure to have a massive year.
Rookie to watch
Tautau Moga. Roosters fans have been waiting for a decent centre combination since Justin Hodges and Ryan Cross left the club years ago. Most will remember the hype surrounding Ryan Williamson which amounted to nothing, hopefully Moga is finally the answer. Smith can't wait to get him out there after dominating the Under 20s.
Daniel Mortimer (Parramatta Eels), Peni Tagive (St. George Illawarra Dragons), Dean Blackman (Parramatta Eels), Jack Bosden (St. George Illawarra Dragons), Adam Henry (Warriors), Daniel Tupou (Parramatta Eels), Clinton Sills (Rugby Union), Josh Aliomai (Newcastle Knights), Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Otahuhu, NZ)
Todd Carney (Cronulla Sharks), Nate Myles (Gold Coast Titans), Kane Linnett (North Queensland Cowboys), Jason Ryles (Melbourne Storm), Phil Graham (Gold Coast Titans), Mark Riddell (Retirement), Daniel Conn (Retirement), Anthony Watts (Widnes Vikings), Cheyse Blair (Parramatta Eels), Johnathan Ford (Toulouse Olympique), Steve Naughton (Pia Donkeys), Willie Mataka (Parramatta Eels)
1 - Anthony Minichiello, 2 - Sam Perrett, 3 - Sean Kenny-Dowall, 4 - Tautau Moga, 5 - BJ Leilua, 6 - Braith Anasta, 7 - Mitchell Pearce, 8 - Martin Kennedy, 9 - Jake Friend, 10 - Lama Tasi, 11 - Mitchell Aubusson, 12 - Jared Warea-Hargreaves, 13 - Tom Symonds
Interchange: 14 - Daniel Mortimer, 15 - Mose Masoe, 16 - Frank-Paul Nuuausala, 17 - Boyd Cordner
Remainder of squad: 18 - Anthony Mitchell, 19 - Aiden Guerra, 20 - Tinirau Arona, 21 - Anthony Cherrington, 22 - Justin Carney, 23 - Brad Takairangi, 24 - Mark Kheirallah, 25 - Peni Tagive