2014 NRL Review: Sydney Roosters
Position: 1st (Knocked out in Preliminary Final)
Record (W-L-D): 16-8-0
Top pointscorer: James Maloney (234 points)
Top Tryscorer: Anthony Minichiello (17 tries)
That wasn’t how it was supposed to go. The Roosters were meant to be the first side to go back-to-back since the Broncos and send their star man Sonny Bill Williams back to Rugby Union.
Despite winning the minor premiership in the final round ahead of the Sea Eagles and Souths, a surprising loss to the Penrith Panthers in the first week of the finals set their defence on the wrong foot. A thrilling win against the Cowboys, where they blew a 30-0 lead, was followed by cruelly for Roosters fans a loss to their bitter rivals, the Rabbitohs, one game shy of the biggest game of the season.
Even though they were minor premiers, their performances were not even close to the ones they produced in the 2013 season. There wasn’t the shut outs they mustered and Sonny Bill Williams was a shadow of himself from the season prior. Wins against the Parramatta Eels and the Storm in Melbourne were highlights in a season that promised so much more.
A lot of criticism was made about the form of the halves, James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce, and their ability to force repeat sets and dominate their opponents. This was highlighted with their omission from the NSW Origin side this season. However, this omission spurred them on to an impressive back-end of the year. Mitchell Pearce in particular put in some performances that showed why he was thrown into the Origin cauldron at such a young age.
The development of Aiden Guerra was another shining light in a year where there were very few standouts for the Bondi-based club. Rewarded with a Maroons jersey, the rangy back-rower held his own on the big stage and 2015 looks to be an even bigger year.
One of the nicest guys in rugby league ended his career this season; Anthony Minichiello. The custodian who has been a mainstay since entering the competition in 2000, finished his final season as top try-scorer for the club with 17 tries. Despite people writing him off at various stages during the year and criticising him for going one year too many, he finished his NRL career with two tries in the preliminary final.
In a year when you win the minor premiership and are one game off the grand final, it is difficult to find bad moments for the Roosters. However, there are a few which dented their chances at various stages.
Mitchell Pearce was going to play Origin 1. He was penciled in and only a disaster would prevent him taking his place. That was exactly what happened. A late night out with Boyd Cordner saw him involved in an incident with a young lady. While he was not charged, Laurie Daley was not happy and he was dropped. Trent Hodkinson came into the side and as they say the rest is history.
Sonny Bill Williams was arguably one of the best players in the competition in the 2013 season. He almost single-handedly brought his side back into the grand final and so he decided to run around again for the Roosters this season. Maybe that was the wrong decision. After getting suspended from the very first game and breaking his thumb later in the year, his form was patchy at best. The novelty of SBW had worn off for me and his erratic offloads hindered more than helped his team this year. Although Williams will be a big loss for Easts, the distraction from the media he brings may be a positive.
The Future: 2015
Trent Robinson will be looking to 2015 for more of the same. The club has not signed anyone of note for next season and instead will rely on their juniors and NSW Cup squad to counteract the losses from the end of this season.
With Anthony Minichiello retiring, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will finally get the chance to play fullback full-time and show people why so many have big raps on the young Kiwi. The Roosters have also lost Remi Casty back to France and as I stated earlier SBW so the young forwards in Dylan Napa and Kane Evans will have to step up next season.
After only losing Luke O’Donnell going into this season, a very different side will run out when they face the team they were knocked out by this season, the Souths Sydney Rabbitohs.
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