We’re well and truly on the home stretch here, as the Sydney Roosters go under the microscope in part 14 of my season previews. Recruiting very, very well during the off-season, the Roosters will have high hopes – can they live up to the expectation or will their season be a failure?
When you look at the Roosters side for 2013, it oozes talent across the park. Talent that has the ability to change a game with the likes of Mitchell Pearce, James Maloney, Sonny Bill Williams, Luke O’Donnell and others.
Despite all of their strong recruitment that gives them one of the best sides on paper in the competition, like with any team approaching the 2013 season, no team is flawless and there may yet be weaknesses that can be exploited by rival clubs.
Looking at the Roosters side, starting with the back-line, it’s a mix of youth and experience – as well as inconsistency.
Some Roosters fans and across the NRL are of the belief that Anthony Minichello perhaps should have moved on given his age, but with the club legend keen for a big season, it remains to be seen whether he can emulate his career best form in what is shaping up as his last year, or whether he performs averagely across the board, sparking more criticism on him.
The next two players from the back-line to hone in on, are the Roosters centres in Michael Jennings and Shaun Kenny-Dowall.
Both players are incredibly talented and both are representative players, needing no introduction to perform on the field.
Despite all that talent, however, in recent years, both have experienced inconsistent seasons (Jennings with Penrith throughout his career) – a trait that both players will be looking to improve and rapidly.
On Jennings, with his previously perceived attitude problems at Penrith and his subsequent departure from the Panthers, it remains to be seen if he can change his attitude and get his head in the right place for 2013 with the Roosters, a fresh start for him, or whether the attitude problems will continue to linger around and potentially cause problems for the team and for his own individual form.
The one key for the Roosters in 2013, will be their halves.
Over the last couple of years, it could be argued that Mitchell Pearce has lacked a solid, dominant half inside of him at times, hence poor results – something that has changed in 2013.
With the arrival of James Maloney from the Warriors, the whole landscape of the Roosters 2013 season has changed – with both players at their peak and seeking to perform and perform well.
Maloney, often regarded as one of the best running five-eighths in the NRL, has fantastic instincts on the football field and knows when to hit a hole and where to be when the forwards lay the platform during the game looking for offloads.
With the likes of Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Sonny Bill Williams and Luke O’Donnell running tirelessly at opposition defences, it might be a perfect time for Maloney to show the NRL just how good his running game is, and just how good he can be in attack across the season.
When it comes to Mitchell Pearce, he too has had his fair share of critics over the years – some going so far as to blame him for the years he has been in Origin.
Now, whilst I’m not a Roosters fan, based on what I’ve seen of him over the last few years and statistically, Pearce hasn’t been as bad as some people have made him out to be.
Still young but full of experience, Pearce is the sort of halfback that is only ever going to get better and now, with James Maloney alongside him, not only will the former Warriors five-eighth complement his game, it will take some of the pressure off Pearce, hence allowing him to play his natural game.
In light of all that, I think one can expect Pearce to have a solid season across the board – and prove to be a key catalyst in the Roosters charge to the finals.
The Roosters also possess a player who I believe, is one of the most under-rated in the game despite a couple of inconsistent, poor seasons of late.
That player, is Mitchell Aubusson.
Whilst he hasn’t been at his best over the last couple of seasons, as he was constantly shifted between the centres and the back-row, under Trent Robinson, it’s quite likely that he’ll get back to his solid, under-rated best.
Aubusson, who can play in the centres, is primarily a back-rower possessing tremendous awareness for the game and an incredible defensive tackle rate. Defence is where he excels, but he can also be a handful in attack.
If he can get back to his best for the Roosters in 2013, it’ll be another new and complicated dynamic for opposition teams to deal with.
Still on back-rowers, for the likes of SBW and O’Donnell, their returns to the NRL have been well documented (very well, in fact), and whilst both are once again going to have to come to terms with how the game has changed since their departure – one would expect that in time, once they get over the rustiness factor, that they can do so.
Whilst O’Donnell hasn’t been out of the NRL for as long as SBW has – it will be interesting to see how he responds to the game since his departure and how he used by Robinson over the course of the season, including how many minutes he gets a game and just how effective he can be on the field, given criticism of his signing by some fans as well.
Perhaps the talking point, the major talking point that is, has undoubtedly been about SBW.
Named on the bench for the Roosters upcoming blockbuster against Souths, it is likely that he will see good game time, despite a niggling pectoral injury.
With all things SBW having already been discussed – how he’ll go, where he’ll play, how long he’ll play, I won’t touch on that too much – but I think in time, after a few rounds at the very least, we’ll slowly see SBW getting back to the style and play of footy he did during his Bulldogs days, forming key partnerships with the players at the club on the fringes.
Overall, the Roosters have the chance to really excel this year given the team at their disposal and you wouldn’t put it past them to potentially challenge the top sides in 2013.
To do so, however, they’ll need the right attitude, the right team chemistry given the new players and the right approach to games, seeing as winning the NRL premiership is never an easy feat.
1. Anthony Minichello
2. Daniel Tupou
3. Michael Jennings
4. Shaun Kenny-Dowall
5. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
6. James Maloney
7. Mitchell Pearce
8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
9. Jake Friend
10. Sam Moa
11. Aidan Guerra
12. Mitchell Aubussuon
13. Frank-Paul Nuuausala.
14. Daniel Mortimer
15. Martin Kennedy
16. Sonny Bill Williams
17. Luke O’Donnell