On Sunday morning (Australian time), the Sydney Roosters won their fifth World Club Challenge title (from five games), beating St Helens 20-12. It puts the Roosters ahead of Wigan (four wins), Leeds, Melbourne and Bradford (three) as the most successful WCC sides. For Australian teams, winning the WCC in the UK is hard; they’re taken from their summer pre-season to usually freezing conditions against a Super League team a few weeks into their new season. Yet the Roosters have won three of their five WCC titles in the UK.
After becoming the first team to win consecutive NRL premierships, the question is, are the Roosters the greatest team in the NRL era?
Yes they are.
Since the NRL started in 1998, the Roosters have won four premierships from eight grand finals and five minor premierships. Their closest rivals, the Melbourne Storm, have won three “official” premierships from nine grand finals and four “official” minor premierships. The Storm made four grand finals from 2006 to 2009, and another three from 2016 to 2018, an incredible consistency. The Roosters dominated the early 2000s, with grand finals in 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2004. While they had a quiet next decade, they won an hat-trick of minor premierships from 2013 to 2015.
The old Eastern Suburbs club (they may have been the Sydney Roosters for 20 years, but their #eaststowin social media handle, and the use of their old logo on training gear, shows they acknowledge their 100-plus year history) are often the butt of jokes for their seemingly non-existent salary cap, poor crowds, and being the NRLs most favoured team alongside the Broncos. The Roosters are the only remaining uninterrupted foundation club from 1908, with Souths missing a couple of seasons, North Sydney long gone from first grade, and Balmain and Western Suburbs merging.
The 2018 and 2019 grand finals sums up the Roosters’s professionalism.
Former Storm star Cooper Cronk (an astute buy for the Roosters) was at long odds to play the 2018 decider, but he found a way. While he was restricted, he used his vast grand final experience to guide the Roosters to a comfortable win. It was the unofficial “Super Bowl” between the two best teams of the 2010s (all but three of the grand finals from 2010 onwards featured either the Roosters or Storm) and the Roosters were superior.
While the Roosters were the logical favourites to win the 2019 grand final, Canberra (in their first grand final in 25 years) were overwhelming sentimental favourites, with passionate Raiders fans, and some neutrals (perhaps happy it wasn’t another Roosters v Storm grand final) turning ANZ Stadium green. An incredible pre-game Viking Clap turned it even further the Green Machine’s way. At 8-8 with 10 minutes left (after the Roosters led 8-0 early), Canberra had the Roosters on toast. After the controversial ‘six again’ call, the Roosters exploited Canberra’s frustration and inexperience to score the match winning try through James Tedesco, and give Cronk the perfect farewell.
The 2020 Roosters are pretty much unchanged apart from Cronk’s retirement, so they’re a huge chance to claim the first NSWRL/ARL/Super League/NRL premiership hat-trick since Parramatta in the early eighties.