2016 NRL Season Preview: Sydney Roosters

Final ladder position 2015: 1st (knocked out in the finals)

The Sydney Roosters had an incredibly successful but ultimately disappointing 2015 season. They finished 1st on the ladder in the regular season with the highest amount of points scored and least amount of points conceded as well as capturing the minor premiership for the third year in a row. However in a repeat of the year before, the Roosters lost their qualifying final match and ultimately bowed out in disappointing fashion in the semi finals with star players Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and James Maloney playing their last games in Roosters colours.
Their off-season has been a rather tumultuous one and as a result the Roosters will be starting 2016 with a vastly different looking backline and a change to their forward rotation. Michael Jennings departed the club well into pre-season replaced by unwanted Bronco Dale Copley. Mitchell Pearce got involved in another scandal, losing his role of captain in the process and a temporary ban from playing NRL to be administered. Boyd Cordner ruptured a pec muscle at training and is likely to miss the first 10 rounds and Jared Waerea Hargreaves looks to be sidelined for a minimum of 5 games, still hampered by a season ending knee injury suffered late last year.

There have certainly been a lot of distractions and incidents for the boys from Bondi to worry about but with the stoic, calm and collected nature of their coach Trent Robinson able to provide a relaxing influence on the playing group the Roosters will hope to overcome their adversities and have another successful season. A victory over St Helens 38-12 in the World Club Series will help instil some positivity into new halves combinations and the forwards who will need to step up in other player’s absences.

Key Players

Jackson Hastings- Used primarily off the bench for a majority of 2015 playing limited minutes, Hastings was entrusted with halfback duties while Pearce was out injured in the late half of the season. During that time he demonstrated a remarkable maturity beyond his years, maintaining a level headed style of play and a solid kicking game. This year he will be relied upon to take up chief playmaking duties and to lead the team around the park for the foreseeable future with a return date for Pearce currently unknown.

Still only 20 years of age and without the benefit of having an experienced playmaker like Maloney to partner him like he did last season, Hastings will be taking on a lot of added responsibility including goal kicking. However he has proven himself to be more than capable of being up to the challenge of first grade and will relish the opportunity to take on a more dominant role for the Roosters.

Jake Friend- Widely tipped to be the successor to Cameron Smith as the next Queensland No.9, Jake Friend is one of the premier hooker’s in the NRL and as the sole captain of the Roosters in 2016, will be a crucial element to their success this year. Friend’s kicking out of dummy half will come to the forefront of his game and be as important to the team as it have ever been. A short grubber from him close to the goal line or a long range kick down field will feature prominently in the Roosters attack. Friend will be the glue that holds the team together in defence, directing traffic in the forwards and guiding his team’s young halves pairing around.

Aidan Guerra- Aidan Guerra has been an exceptional player for the Roosters in the last few seasons and in the absence of Cordner and Waerea Hargreaves much of the go forward and leadership in the forward pack will fall to him. A defensive workhorse who also knows how to find the tryline, often through his trademark hit and spin, Guerra will see a lot of attacking plays and short balls sent his way.
If the Roosters are to have a good start to the year, a prominent part of it will be off the back of Guerra stepping up his game, leading the charge and linking well with his halves in attack.

Likely Round 1 lineup
1. Blake Ferguson
2. Daniel Tupou
3. Dale Copley
4. Shaun Kenny-Dowall
5. Latrell Mitchell
6. Jayden Nikorima
7. Jackson Hastings
8. Kane Evans
9. Jake Friend
10. Dylan Napa
11. Mitchell Aubusson
12. Aidan Guerra
13. Sio Siua Taukeiaho
14. Isaac Liu
15. Ian Henderson
16. Vincent Leuluai/Mitchell Frei
17. Sam Moa

Story of 2016

The emergence of young talents like Latrell Mitchell and Jayden Nikorima. Both players have come through the lower ranks with massive wraps on them and now they have the chance to show that they can live up to the hype. With both turning in impressive displays in the World Club Series, Mitchell and Nikorima have secured spots in the Round 1 lineup and have the opportunity to showcase their talents at NRL level.

Whilst the window for another Roosters premiership seems to have closed, the successful first grade debuts of Mitchell and Nikorima in 2016 will give the club a bright outlook on building a team of the future.

Ladder: 7th or 8th
Predicted Top Tryscorer: Latrell Mitchell
Predicted Top Pointscorer: Jackson Hastings
Predicted Player of the Year: Aidan Guerra or Jake Friend.

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