25 rounds, 192 games, #Origin on a Sunday, and a September Grand Final.
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Disappointing is the first word that comes to mind when discussing the Roosters 2012 efforts. The season started on a high note with a thrilling last-ditch effort to sink the old enemy South Sydney in the final minute, but it was all downhill from there. Players and fans payed dearly for this moment of joy, not once but twice. Heartbreaking last-minute defeats came from St George-Illawarra on ANZAC Day, and Souths getting their revenge in mid-July.
With some ugly but gutsy efforts, the Roosters came out of Round 6 with a surprising 4 wins. After a flogging from eventual Premiers Melbourne, the standard of football seemed to improve but the wins dried up. Close loss after close loss eventually broke the Tricolours spirit, the season dragging on with few efforts to be proud of and a thankfully unfulfilled wooden spoon threat.
There are very few excuses that can be made for Easts' mediocrity in 2012. Some criticisms can be levelled at referees, but when it comes down to it neither the attacking or defensive structures were in place to achieve anywhere near what was expected. Game plans seemed at best non-existent, at worst simply poor. Defense was found lacking often at the most crucial moments. Strong rumours continued to fly about players falling out with Coach Brian Smith, until he was eventually sacked at season's end. CEO Steve Noyce was also moved on, and Captain Braith Anasta has ended his time with the club, signing with the Tigers for 2013.
With big changes across the entire club for 2013 everyone will be expecting a massive improvement. Neither fans nor Nick Politis will tolerate another season of failure.
The Round 1 win was the season highlight. The Roosters' good record against the Tigers continued with two big wins. Most importantly however, some young superstars of the future were promoted to the top grade. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Tautau Moga are both big names to watch in an Easts backline that has lacked potency for years. In the forward pack, Boyd Cordner was a constant standout, some going as far to put him in the frame for the vacated captaincy in 2013.
In lower grades, the Roosters performed admirably. The Under 20s exceeded expectations to not only knock out the Rabbitohs with some razzle-dazzle seconds out from the final hooter (again!), but also toppled reigning premiers the Warriors. Unfortunately there was no last minute miracle against the Tigers and they failed to reach the Grand Final.
The Jets, on the other hand, made up for recent Grand Final losses to convincingly beat Balmain, knocking off Norths and Minor Premiers Canterbury in the process.
In such an unimpressive season it's hard to pick a 'turning point'. However, an argument could be made for the Round 12 game against a Canterbury side yet to really click into gear. The Roosters had competed well in previous weeks and were extremely unlucky not to have a few more wins. At half time they were right in the contest. Unfortunately the second half was an embarrassingly meek surrender. This match was followed by a series of similarly woeful efforts, with few highlights sprinkled throught the remaining months of the season.
The defensive capitulations at crucial moments. The messy, uninspiring attack. The floggings from North Queensland, Melbourne, Canterbury, and Manly. The frequent admissions from Bill Harrigan that referees made game changing mistakes in close games. Sam Perrett jumping ship mid-season. ANZAC Day.
Despite strong criticism from certain sections of the media, Mitchell Pearce was instrumental in providing what little attack the Roosters had. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves was destructive, deservedly picking up the club's Player of the Year award and very unlucky to miss a spot in the New Zealand side. Boyd Cordner is quickly making a name for himself as one of the best up-and-coming forwards in the comp.
Few fans are disappointed to see Braith Anasta replaced at 5/8th, criticising a lack of speed and creativity necessary to spark the attack. Frank-Paul Nuuausala and Mose Masoe were too inconsistent throughout the season, and will need to improve to be assured of starting positions under incoming coach Trent Robinson.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. The step on this kid almost puts Fittler to shame, and he has the all-round game to back it up. Gave fans a glimpse of the future with a line break from the ingoal to set up a game-defining try against St George. 'RTS' will be a worthy fullback successor to club legend Anthony Minichiello. Boyd Cordner will be looking for a big season in 2013, as will Tautau Moga who showed some of his enormous potential.
Chances in 2013
2013 is shaping to be a much happier year for the Roosters. James Maloney at 5/8th and of course Sonny Bill Williams returning to the NRL will mean a much more dangerous side takes the field in March next year. Important changes outside the playing staff have also been made - Trent Robinson is the new coach after taking Catalans to the top 4 of Super League and Brian Canavan returns as COO of football operations. Finals football will be the absolute minimum expectation, considering the talent on-field.
Best Line-up 2013
1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2. Anthony Minichiello 3. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 4. BJ Leilua 5. Tautau Moga 6. James Maloney 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. Martin Kennedy 9. Jake Friend 10. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 11. Mitchell Aubusson 12. Boyd Cordner 13. Aiden Guerra
Interchange: 14. Nafe Seluini 15. Mose Masoe 16. Lama Tasi 17. Frank-Paul Nuuausala
* N.B. at the time of writing, Sonny Bill Williams was not yet a confirmed signing. He would likely slot into the second row, moving Mitchell Aubusson to the bench.
How the season went for the Roosters: