Another day, another preview. This time, we shall cast our eye over one of the form 2013 sides of the competition, the grand final winners, the Sydney Roosters. Can they go back-to-back and prove their superiority, or will they find it harder to win the title again, now that teams are ready for them?
GAINS: Remi Casty (Catalan Dragons) Jackson Hastings (St George Illawarra Dragons) Jonathan Reuben (Canberra Raiders) Curtis Naughton (Bradford Bulls) Sio Siua Taukeiaho (New Zealand Warriors) Heath L’Estrange (Bradford Bulls) Kem Seru (St George Illawarra Dragons)
Reigning champions. For Roosters fans, that has a very nice ring to it and as we approach the start of the 2014 season, they will once again be among the favourites to take out the NRL premiership and go back-to-back. Retaining largely the same side and adding a few extra pieces, will they be able to once again perform consistently and finish well, or will they be overshadowed by another team?
It would take a brave man to suggest that the Roosters will have a major slide in 2014 given that they are reigning champs and having retained the majority of their key players for the 2014 season, they will – at the very least – challenge for the top spot in the NRL.
As is the case with most teams, the focus and pressure will once again centre around the partnership of Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney.
At club level, it could be argued that both players had career-best seasons in 2013 and with the partnership flourishing, whether they can maintain that high standard as a collective unit and potentially get even better remains to be seen, but it will be interesting to watch them develop further and guide the Roosters towards victory to start and then potential premiership success.
After his stellar season in 2013, another player that will be focused on and once again come under the spotlight, will be one of the game’s greatest back-rowers, Sonny Bill Williams. Rarely do you see a game where the Kiwi doesn’t have an impact – regardless of whether it’s an NRL game or an international game – so the Roosters will once again utilise his natural ability and exceptional skills to target the defensive fringes of opposing teams in order to create opportunities. For any neutral fan, it is a great thrill to watch a player as gifted as SBW in action.
Heading into 2014, recruitment was not a major factor for the Roosters – they strengthened their depth stocks and young brigade – with the majority of their 2014 side already set in stone from the previous year. There is one recruit who is primed to make an impact and that is French forward, Remi Casty.
Joining from Catalans, Casty is a powerful forward who will offer starch, go-forward and impact off the bench, and will help to offset the retirement of Luke O’Donnell. With international experience to his name and several decent seasons at Catalans, the key for Casty will be to perform well in the NRL and to see whether he can fit in with the Roosters system moving forward.
All in all, the Roosters are an elite side across the park. Their 2013 form dictated that, the players at their disposal show that and with their overall ability and the stern yet effective coaching methods of Trent Robinson, they are a side that will once again challenge in the NRL season.
Player to Watch: Kane Evans. Although Evans is yet to make his debut for the Roosters, he does have the international experience, having played in five games for Fiji, most recently at the Rugby League World Cup. Regarded as one of the best forward prospects coming out of the Roosters system, many fans believe that it is just a matter of time before Evans is out and about in first-grade, wreaking havoc. He came close last year after stellar performances for Newtown saw him in the box-seat for first-grade, but second-tier cap restrictions and then injury, prevented that from happening.
In what is a new season, though, Evans is literally on the cusp of making his debut. A powerful runner with a controlled but aggressive approach, if you watch the young prop play, you will see just how well he can perform and the potential impact he can have at the NRL level. Whether he gets a shot in Rd 1 or midway through the season remains to be seen but when he does get that chance, he will most likely take the chance.
With most of the team already set in stone, this is what the Roosters team is likely to look like:
1. Anthony Minichiello
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. Boyd Cordner
12. Sonny Bill Williams
13. Frank-Paul Nuuausala
14. Daniel Mortimer
15. Mitch Aubusson
16. Aiden Guerra
17. Remi Casty