As the National Rugby League season draws closer, we look at how the Sydney Roosters will go in 2019.
Like the Melbourne Storm last year, the Sydney Roosters are aiming to be the first back-to-back NRL premiers. While they ended the Storm’s dream in last year’s grand final, can the Roosters go the extra step in 2019? They got off to a good start, beating Wigan 20-8 in the World Club Challenge, with a hat-trick for new signing Brett Morris.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Angus Crichton (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Ryan Hall (Leeds – 2020), Brett Morris (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs – 2020)
Blake Ferguson (Parramatta Eels), Frank-Paul Nuuausala (retired), Paul Momirovski (Wests Tigers), Sean O’Sullivan (Brisbane Broncos), Ryan Matterson (Wests Tigers), Kurt Baptiste (North Queensland Cowboys)
South Sydney (H), Manly-Warringah (A), Parramatta (A), Brisbane (H), Cronulla-Sutherland (A).
WHAT TO EXPECT
If any team can break the NRL’s back-to-back hoodoo, it’s the Roosters (exemplified by their ‘Easts to Win’ slogan). While Blake Ferguson’s gone, they still have the core of their premiership-winning team, including Boyd Cordner, Cooper Cronk, Daniel Tupou, James Tedesco, Latrell Mitchell and 2018 Clive Churchill Medal winner Luke Keary. While the Melbourne Storm will be driven for revenge by Craig Bellamy and Cameron Smith, and South Sydney should build on last year’s preliminary final, it’s hard to see anyone else troubling the Easts boys. They may be vulnerable around Origin time: they have the round 12 bye before Origin one, back up against Penrith, are minus their Origin players in round 16 against Wests, and play North Queensland at Gosford after Origin three. The Roosters have a nostalgic new home too, using the Sydney Cricket Ground while Allianz Stadium (Sydney Football Stadium) is renovated.
Cooper Cronk’sgrand final performance was inspiring. After a few seasons of wasted minor premierships, thee Roosters bought him to win the big games, and it worked. Almost rivalling John Sattler’s iconic grand final display in 1970 for bravery, Cronk (playing with a broken scapula) assumed a player-coach role to guide the Roosters home. With at least one season left, surely Cronk can punish his 35-year-old body for another Roosters premiership? Another key player is the prolific Mitchell, keen to build on a fantastic 2018, marked by his NSW Origin debut, the premiership and his Test debut against New Zealand in October (and a second Test against Tonga the following week).
Angus Crichton’s signing from arch-rival Souths was controversial (at least for Souths fans). The Roosters paid $3 million over three years for Chrichton, (fuelling the Roosters’ ‘salary cap sombrero’ conspiracy theories). Starting in 2016, Chrichton’s been a big part of Souths’ rise to genuine contenders, playing 55 games for 11 tries. Carry that form to Bondi and the Roosters will consider it $3 million well spent.
The Roosters have a decent draw, with 12 of 24 games against last year’s top eight. They bookend the season against Souths (rounds one and 25), play Melbourne twice, Brisbane twice, Penrith twice, St. George-Illawarra twice and Cronulla and NZ Warriors once each. They have double duties against bottom eight teams Wests, Newcastle, Canterbury and Canberra (though they’d be wary of the Raiders after losing to them in Canberra late last year). The games against Souths, Melbourne and Brisbane are a real test of the Roosters’ back-to-back hopes. Navigate those successfully and another premiership is at their mercy.
Top Tryscorer – James Tedesco
Top Pointscorer – Latrell Mitchell
Club Player of the Year – Cooper Cronk
WHERE WILL SYDNEY ROOSTERS FINISH?
’Easts to Win’ and become the first back-to-back NRL premiers.