2023 review: Sydney Roosters

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AJ Lucantonio returns to recap the Tricolours' 2023 campaign in the next of our series  of NRL club reviews.

Riding the waves at Bondi

Season 2023 was expected to be one that saw the side return to being a competition force. With the signing of Brandon Smith and critical depth pieces, it's one that had many high hopes for the boys from Bondi.

Before a ball was kicked, problems arose with Connor Watson getting hurt and not playing a single second, as well as Angus Crichton's well-documented mental health problems. The side was up against the wall from the moment their plane departed for Brisbane.

With that being said, the Roosters embarked on their traditional Round 1 loss, this time more embarrassing than the past, losing to the expansion side from the north in the Dolphins. The Tricolours quickly rebounded to win their next three, before a two game skid saw cracks emerge. Sam Walker was made collateral damage and didn't return after suffering an injury in NSW Cup until Round 26.

This saw a halves combination by-committee with Joey Manu, Sandon Smith and Drew Hutchison taking turns partnering Luke Keary in the halves. This combined with the slump in form from senior players such as James Tedesco and Victor Radley on-top of Brandon Smith's hand injury saw the Chooks as low as 14th with seven weeks to go.

They rallied and somehow, somewhere made the finals (thanks in large part to South Sydney's demise) and gave it a decent showing in the semis before bowing out in controversial circumstances against Melbourne.

Turning point

While everyone will point to the victory over the Titans as the moment the fortunes changed. I am looking at it differently, for the first two months of the year. The defensive structure was absolutely horrific. The side was far too often collapsing in a heap, completely going away from the Bondi Wall which saw the side win three premierships in seven seasons.

This saw them losing to an inconsistent Cowboys side and the Dragons, following which the Roosters fired Jason Ryles and bring in recently retired club legends Boyd Cordner and Jake Friend join the staff to fix the mess of a defensive structure Ryles left behind. The defence improved seemingly overnight, and the boys enjoyed their football again. It improved quickly, and it was the moment they needed to make the finals.

What worked

The return of Brandon Smith back to his best in Round 20 saw the Roosters play a much better brand of attacking football. This saw a return to straight up attack and go-forward which allowed Keary and Hutchison to get the Chooks back to where they wanted to get to in Rounds 23-25.

Also, the trust in fringe players such as Siua Wong, Terrell May, Fletcher Baker, Sandon Smith, Junior Pauga and Naufahu Whyte gave the side a boost, knowing anyone could come in and do their job.

What didn't

Once again, the first half of a season was an absolute mess. This side was too good to be in the position they were with so little time to fix it. Coming off a World Cup and having to rejig the spine for a THIRD consecutive season with so little time was a disaster waiting to happen.

It showed through the first few months as the Roosters were consistently the worst attack in the NRL. Fortunately, it improved towards the end of the year and it will be the same spine in 2024. Roosters fans are praying new assistant Justin Holbrook gets it right.

2023 week-by-week

1Mar 5thSun 3:05pmADolphinsL18-28Suncorp32,17715th
2Mar 11thSat 3:00pmHWarriorsW20-12Allianz16,2679th
3Mar 17thFri 8:00pmHSouthsW20-18Allianz36,6394th
5Mar 30thThu 7:50pmHParramattaW28-20Allianz20,8864th
6Apr 6thThu 7:50pm
7Apr 14thFri 6:00pmACronullaL12-22Pointsbet11,4899th
8Apr 25thTue 4:05pmHSt Geo IllaW27-26Allianz40,1919th
9Apr 30thSun 4:00pmAWarriorsW14-0Mt Smart20,3955th
10May 7thSun 4:00pmH*North QLDL6-20Suncorp46,8358th
11May 12thFri 8:00pmAPenrithL4-48Bluebet20,25510th
12May 19thFri 6:00pmASt Geo IllaL22-24Netstrata9,00710th
14Jun 4thSun 2:00pmH*CanterburyW25-24Gosford18,33810th
15Jun 10thSat 7:35pmHPenrithL6-30Allianz23,61013th
16Jun 17thSat 3:00pmANewcastleW18-16McD Jones21,96611th
17Jun 25thSun 6:15pmHCanberraL18-20Allianz13,32612th
18Jul 2ndSun 4:05pmAManlyL16-184 Pines Park17,38512th
20Jul 15thSat 7:35pmHMelbourneL16-30SCG12,02114th
21Jul 22ndSat 3:00pmAGold CoastW36-18Cbus15,36213th
22Jul 27thThu 7:50pm
23Aug 3rdThu 7:50pm
24Aug 12thSat 7:35pmHDolphinsW30-14Allianz13,70411th
25Aug 18thFri 8:00pmAParramattaW34-12CommBank20,07611th
26Aug 26thSat 5:30pmHWests TigersW32-8Allianz22,51111th
27Sep 1stFri 8:00pmASouthsW26-12Accor36,2637th
EFSep 9thSat 7:50pmACronullaW13-12Pointsbet12,570-
SFSep 15thFri 7:50pmAMelbourneL13-18AAMI19,534-

Best players

There were times this year that the performances of Lindsay Collins were so super-human they seem unrealistic. Last season, a lot of fans were critical of Collins after doing so well at QLD level and then being mixed at club land. This year saw that QLD form carry into his Roosters performances on a weekly basis with the individual efforts being amazing on a weekly basis.

Also to shine was Billy Smith, the modern day Brett Papworth managed to stay healthy this season and turned in a spectacular year always ranging as one of the Chooks best in every match. Luke Keary played every game and was the victim of the collateral damage around him, but gave 100% every single week and deserves kudos. Terrell May proved his worth, earning a Samoan jumper with a strong end of the season and with JWH's inability to keep his discipline, the starting spot will be his in Round 1 and might be for the remainder of the season.


The Roosters saw the NRL debut of two players in 2023. Sandon Smith and Siua Wong. Sandon played anywhere and everywhere for the Roosters in what was a troubling year, from hooker to half and even a stint at fullback in the finals when every other option went down... He has a lot of upside and with a strong off-season, could cement that 14 spot.

Siua Wong has emerged as the Boyd Cordner replacement the Roosters have been asking for, for years. Wong never disappointed every time he started, first it was out of need. Then with strong performances, he earnt the start keeping the likes of Egan Butcher and Angus Crichton on the bench and in the middle. His spot is his to lose in 2024 after this strong run to end the season.

2023 player list

ALLAN, Corey25132--8--
BAKER, Fletcher23161--4--
BROWN, Nathan3010-----1
BUTCHER, Egan23212--81-
BUTCHER, Nat26244--161-
COLLINS, Lindsay27253--12--
CRICHTON, Angus27131--4--
HUTCHISON, Drew28174--16--
KEARY, Luke312653228--
LODGE, Matt289------
MANU, Joseph27218--321-
MAY, Terrell24171--4--
MOMIROVSKI, Paul273------
NAPA, Dylan302------
PAUGA, Junior2793--12--
PAULO, Jaxson23126--24--
RADLEY, Victor25212--83-
SMITH, Billy231541-18--
SMITH, Brandon27213--121-
SMITH, Sandon2015-7-14--
SUA'ALI'I, Joseph-Aukuso2021846-124--
TEDESCO, James302211--441-
THOMAS, Ben251------
TUPOU, Daniel321810--40--
TUPOUNIUA, Sitili2681--4--
TURPIN, Jake2615------
WAEREA-HARGREAVES, Jared3418----2-
WALKER, Sam2110320254--
WHYTE, Naufahu219------
WONG, Siua20103--12--

30 players, average age 26.36yrs

Season snapshot

Coach: Trent Robinson
Captains: James Tedesco (23), Luke Keary (3)

Biggest home crowd: 40,191 (vs. St George Illawarra in round 1)
Average home crowd: 22,868

Top pointscorer: Joseph-Aukuso Sua'ali'i (124)
Top tryscorer: James Tedesco (12)

Club award winners

  • Steggles Try of the Year: Sam Walker 
  • Members Player of the Year: Lindsay Collins 
  • Barry Van Heekeren ‘Mocca' Award: Ryan Sansom 
  • Roosters Our Community Award: James Tedesco 
  • Chris Sykes Junior Representative Player of the Year Award: De La Salle Va'a 
  • Harry Phipps Rising Star Award: Siua Wong 
  • NSW Cup Player of the Year Award: Siua Wong 
  • James Mathews Clubman of the Year: Luke Keary
  • Jack Gibson Medal: Lindsay Collins

Looking ahead

Looking at the year ahead, the backline puzzle will be keen to watch. I've opted for Suaalii at centre to start the year with Young on the wing but that could easily change pending circumstances. So watch that battle closely.

They need to start strong in 2024 to avoid the disasters of last season. If they can get the results done, then they definitely have the roster to end the Panthers dynasty.

Best 17 for 2024 Round 1

... in Vegas!

based on current signings at time of writing

1: James Tedesco
2: Daniel Tupou
3: Joey Manu
4: Joesph Suaalii
5: Dominic Young
6: Luke Keary
7: Sam Walker
8: Lindsay Collins
9: Brandon Smith
10: JWH
11: Siua Wong
12: Nat Butcher
13: Victor Radley

14: Connor Watson
15: Egan Butcher
16: Spencer Leniu
17: Terrell May