Just two more NRL previews to go, as part 15 looks at the Sydney Roosters and their 2019 chances.
As the reigning champs, all the pressure is on to perform at that same level.
In the modern NRL era, going back-to-back is an anomaly, a feat that just does not happen. Not yet anyway.
If you were going to back any side to do it, though, the Roosters would be strong favourites given the strength of their side.
The pressure of going back-to-back
The reason why as to teams cannot go back-to-back is like an enigma of some sort. Almost like it cannot be explained.
Teams have gone close in the past – very close at that – yet fallen at the final hurdle.
Although there is no finite way to prove how or why they did not go on with it, there can be some assertions made as to why.
The pressure that comes with the game, with consistency, with constant performance and continuity, simply increases every year.
Teams that win a premiership are often scouted more so than others, as teams look at ways to stop them from performing at a high level for a second season.
For the Roosters, if they are to buck this trend, their new signings need to gel quickly, for starters.
In addition to that, the premiership winning players from last season need to emulate their 2018 form.
Doing so is never easy as the weight of expectation becomes greater and greater.
They have the ability to do so but it makes it that much harder when you strive for successive premierships.
Can they do it? It will be a wait and see as they look to achieve what no team has this modern NRL era.
Changing clubs and being able to replicate your form immediately is a tall order but that is the challenge facing Angus Crichton.
Bursting onto the scene with the South Sydney Rabbitohs, Crichton quickly established himself in the NRL.
As an effective, reliable, talented hole-runner, his try-scoring feats soared on the Rabbitohs edge.
But with a new team, some uncertainty as to how he will fit in and whether he can gel, has some expecting that time is needed.
Time to find his home in the Roosters line-up, even if other elite players are around him to make his life easier.
The opportunity to play alongside Cooper Cronk on your inside does not come around every day but Crichton will need to develop a new understanding.
It will be one thing to run a good line, making it look effortless; it will be another be to in sync with Cronk and his thoughts to produce maximum effectiveness.
Getting that combination going is one of the keys for the Roosters in going back-to-back, a rarely achieved feat in recent NRL history.
Both are quality players and so you will back them both to succeed but new team-mates need time to mesh.
Emergence of the new blood
Often criticised for being unable to produce quality juniors, three of the Roosters strongest performers in 2018 were their own.
Latrell Mitchell, Joseph Manu and Victor Radley all shone across the season in different ways.
All three played crucial roles in the premiership winning season but all three are very different players.
Mitchell, who is perhaps the brightest emerging player in the game, took the NRL by storm in 2018.
Although he might lack the speed, he makes up for it with pure strength and a deadly fend that wreaked havoc.
Many-an-opponent found themselves on the end of the fend, with it often leading to tries, breaks or opportunities.
Joseph Manu is of a similar build and although all the attention may have gone towards Mitchell, Manu just went about his own business.
Impressing Roosters fans with his consistent performances, Manu’s stocks are rising as he looks to make an even bigger impression in 2019.
With such potency on the right and left side at centre, the Roosters are blessed with strong, powerful players who are good to watch in full flight.
As for Victor Radley, he was perhaps the surprise packet in many ways. Although his ability was not in question, where and how he would fit was.
Playing as a utility man off the bench, his versatility across hooker, back-row and lock served him well.
His stocks rose, his form rose, and he earned the trust of coach Trent Robinson as Mr Reliable across the park.
As 2019 looms, Radley has a chance to cement a spot in the starting pack with the departure of Ryan Matterson.
But with forwards galore and plenty of minutes to go around, can he hold down a starting spot or will he become Mr Fix-It yet again?
2019 Gains and Losses
Gains: Egan Butcher (2019), Craig Garvey (Canberra Raiders, 2019), Brock Lamb (Newcastle Knights, 2019), Ryan Hall (Leeds Rhinos, 2020), Brett Morris (Canterbury Bulldogs, 2020) and Angus Crichton (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2021).
Losses: Kurt Baptiste (North Queensland Cowboys), Blake Ferguson (Parramatta Eels), Ryan Matterson and Paul Momirovski (both Wests Tigers), Sean O’Sullivan (Brisbane Broncos) and Dylan Napa and Chris Smith (both Canterbury Bulldogs). Mitch Cornish, Eloni Vunakece and Frank-Paul Nuuausala (all retired). Dean Matterson (released).
Player to Watch
As their middle forwards unfortunately do not get any younger, the Sydney Roosters are always a team to keep an eye on the future.
That future in the front row goes by the name of Poasa Faamausili, a hulking young Kiwi prop, ready to take the NRL world by storm.
Lauded for his work-ethic and strong approach to the game, his one start saw him impress in a sign of things to come.
With Origin likely to hit the Roosters hard along with any unfortunate injuries they may face, Faamausili is a name that could be heard more often in 2019.
A strong performer through the club ranks, the young Kiwi prop is primed for a big season in 2019. He just needs the opportunity.
NRL News Predicted Line-Up
- James Tedesco
- Daniel Tupou
- Latrell Mitchell
- Joseph Manu
- Brett Morris
- Luke Keary
- Cooper Cronk
- Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
- Jake Friend
- Sio Siua Taukeiaho
- Boyd Cordner (C)
- Angus Crichton
- Isaac Liu
14. Mitch Aubusson
15. Zane Tetevano
16. Victor Radley
17. Nat Butcher
Coach: Trent Robinson.