Record: 6 wins, 18 losses. 443 Points For, 576 Points Against.
Ladder Position: 15th
Player of the Year: Jake Friend – Jack Gibson medalist
After 3 straight minor premierships it was inevitable the Roosters would have to take a fall down the rankings soon enough but few would have predicted what a drastic turn-around one year could have on them. With the departures of key players like James Maloney, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Michael Jennings accompanied with three of their best players in Mitchell Pearce, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Boyd Cordner missing large chunks of the season it led to a disastrous season for the Roosters. The team that did take the field for most of the year often didn’t do themselves any favours either as senior players struggled for form while highly rated rookies failed to make their mark.
The Roosters lost 8 games by 4 points or less in 2016 with 5 of those losses coming in the first 8 rounds before the return of Mitchell Pearce. If those losses had been turned into wins then they would have comfortably made the Top 8 but as it is they’ll be left to rue a season of What If’s and what might have been. With a reasonably strong finish to the regular season and experienced, reliable signings like Michael Gordon and Luke Keary making their way to the club next year the Roosters will be looking to erase the memories of a horrible 2016 and continue building for the future.
Emergence of young talent
Whilst the Roosters endured one of their most dreadful seasons in recent memory, they also had a chance to blood some talented youngsters who could become mainstays of the club in years to come. Connor Watson first started his career in the NRL off the bench as a impact dummy half but by the end found himself as the Roosters first choice five-eighth. His running game and willingness to take on the line made him a dangerous attacking threat and injected some spark back into a lethargic Roosters side. In 8 games as the starting 5/8 he scored 3 tries, set up 5 try assists and was involved in 3 victories which was half of the Roosters total wins for the year.
Ryan Matterson emerged as a new jack of all trades utility player in the vein of Chris Flannery and his team-mate Mitchell Aubusson. Signed to the club as a half Matterson proved to be a good ball runner but lacked creativity and a kicking game. Coming off the bench he was used sparingly but in Rounds 23 and 24 he demonstrated how valuable his versatility was as he filled in at left centre for the majority of both games due to separate injuries to Dale Copley and Mitchell Aubusson. He scored tries in both of those games and finished the year with an 80 minute performance in the back-row, making him into a very handy player for the Roosters to have in future.
Latrell Mitchell proved the hype behind him was justified and that his sensational ability in the lower grades could translate just as well to the NRL. A strong carrier of the ball who could break tackles at will, Latrell was a bright spark in the Roosters otherwise dire year and proved to be their most potent attacking weapon. He finished his debut season as the Roosters leading try-scorer and highest points-scorer with 14 tries and 12 goals. He spent most of the year at fullback before making a late season shift to the wing where he will likely share those roles with Michael Gordon in 2017 reminiscent of Minichiello and Tuivasa-Sheck sharing the role in 2014.
While the Roosters were able to give some young talent their opportunity to shine in first grade, they also had a team where plenty of players struggled to match the form of seasons past or deliver on the expectations made of them.
Young half Jackson Hastings who the Roosters had invested in as the future of the club over Maloney struggled to lead the team around in Pearce’s absence and failed to gel as his halves partner once he did return. Rumours spread of attitude problems which put him offside with the playing group and ultimately he had not lived up to what the club had envisioned him to be. It was never going to be easy for him to handle the main playmaker duties so early into his career and a lot of the blame was unfairly placed on him considering the effort he put into his on-field performances was there, he just couldn’t make anything of it.
Aidan Guerra had a dreadful year form-wise as he failed to step up in the absence of other forward pack leaders. Like Hastings a lot was asked of him including a desperate period of time in the year where he was called upon to fill a role in the halves after young gun Jayden Nikorima was struggling to handle first grade five-eighth duties. However it was hardly an excuse for some truly deplorable efforts from the QLD representative as he made pathetic tackle attempts and hardly looked like he cared as he struggled throughout the year. A particularly poor performance against Penrith in Round 22 led to his axing from first grade. He made a successful return 2 weeks later scoring a try in a 42-6 win over the Dragons and performed well in the last 2 games of the season to give Roosters fans some hope 2016 was just an off-year for him.
Roosters Rehabilitation Recruitment strategy
For 2017 the Roosters have taken an interesting approach to their recruitment by signing numerous players with disgraced and troubled pasts, rescuing them from the scrap heap and giving them another opportunity. Zane Tetevano, Liam Knight and Paul Carter have all had their run ins with the law. The latter two have had alcohol related issues that saw Knight convicted of high-range drink driving and Carter sacked from two different clubs while Tetevano was convicted of multiple counts of domestic violence and served a nine month jail term.
It’s a move that eases pressure on the salary cap with presumably none of the players having much of a price tag attached to them with recent indiscretions and the Roosters have proven themselves to be able to successfully rehabilitate disgraced players in the past. Jake Friend and Blake Ferguson are examples of success stories while they even managed to keep Todd Carney out of trouble long enough for him to win a Dally M medal and guide them to a Grand Final. However it does raise questions about the type of team culture the Roosters are developing. The signing of Tetevano was enough for one fan to write a letter of displeasure that CEO John Lee personally responded to.
With the signings upsetting a percentage of fans who are uncomfortable with the idea of having to cheer on these players and rumours of the Chooks poor season resulting from player dissent and poor culture these new acquisitions could be more trouble than they’re worth. However if these young men have shown a genuine desire to change and apply themselves to living a better life it’s only fair that they be given the opportunity to do so even if they are a repeat offender like Carter or that their crime is unforgivable to some like Tetevano.
2017 GAINS AND LOSSES
Gains: Paul Carter (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2017), Michael Gordon (Parramatta Eels, 2017), Brock Gray (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2017), Luke Keary (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2018), Liam Knight (Manly Sea Eagles, 2019), Zane Tetevano (2017)
Losses: Vincent Leuluai (Melbourne Storm), Sam Moa (Catalan Dragons), Charlie Taylor (released)