Position: Minor Premiers (knocked out Finals Week 3)
Record (W-L-D): 18-6-0
Top Pointscorer: James Maloney, 250
Top Tryscorer: Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 17
Another year of heartbreak for the Sydney Roosters as they fell in almost identical circumstances during week three of the finals series after taking out the Minor Premiership.
Like in 2014, the Roosters came unstuck in week one of the finals series. This was after winning their last twelve games of the regular season. A third consecutive Minor Premiership established Trent Robinson as one of the leading coaches in the modern era. They appeared back on track with a big and somewhat controversial victory over Canterbury Bulldogs in week two of the finals. In front of a capacity crowd at Suncorp Stadium the nerves set in and the Roosters never looked in the contest, eventually falling 31-12.
It was a season where Roger Tuivasa-Sheck took over from champion fullback Anthony Minichiello in spectacular fashion. He was the leading player in the game for runs (606) and an incredible 6,517 metres, some 2,399 more than second placed Storm forward Jesse Bromwich. He crossed the line twelve times during the season. Roosters fans were left disappointed with the announcement of his move to New Zealand Warriors in 2016.
James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce’s combination in the halves was a major factor for the club’s success. Maloney was dropped from the successful 2014 Origin series for New South Wales with Trent Hodkinson preferred. It didn’t appear to phase him. Maloney topped off a wonderful 2015 by becoming the leading National Rugby League point scorer and being involved with twenty try assists. He is another Rooster exiting the club when he joins Cronulla Sharks next season.
This season saw the return of Blake Ferguson after being banned by the National Rugby League for off-field problems. After hitting the ground running in the early rounds, Ferguson’s season was temporarily put on hold with an ankle injury. With nineteen appearances where he scored ten tries, Blues Origin coach Laurie Daley will be watching closely his form in 2016 for a potential return to the squad after a three year absence.
Off-field dramas with Shaun Kenny-Dowall provided the Roosters with an unwanted distraction in mid July after being charged with domestic violence offences. In one of the most talked about moments of the 2015 Final Series, his long pass to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck landed in the hands of Darius Boyd early in the Suncorp Stadium match which had an immediate impact on the sides chances that night.
Their season may have been different in the finals series had it not been injuries to key players. Mitchell Pearce’s fitness was well managed at the back end of the season but a costly gamble was taken in Brisbane where he only completed the first forty minutes. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves’ knee injury against the Broncos in August was seen as a huge blow at the time. To be fair, Dylan Napa did an exceptional job with big shoes to fill.
The losses of Maloney and Tuivasa-Sheck were offset by contract extensions to Ferguson, Guerra, Kenny-Dowall, Napa, Waerea-Hargreaves and Daniel Tupou. As a result they have gone light in the transfer market. Joe Burgess will have a crack at the National Rugby League after signing a three year contract from the Wigan Warriors. Ian Henderson returns down under after a stint with Catalans Dragons. Jayden Nikorima, brother of Broncos player Kodi also moves to the club in the off-season.
Maloney’s likely replacement in the halves is superstar in waiting Jackson Hastings. His father Kevin played for the Eastern Suburbs Roosters in a ten year career playing 239 games for the tri-colours. Jackson has already represented at schoolboys and Junior Kangaroos level. Late in the season he appeared to handle the pace and pressure of top grade footy quite well which is promising for the nineteen year old.
What do the Roosters need to do next year to go that one extra step? This is the $64,000 question as their dominance in the preliminary rounds has been consistent over the past three seasons. It could come down simply to mental preparation at finals time. You can’t afford to drop your guard at any time during finals footy or the consequences can be fatal.