With some lean years in recent seasons, the Roosters have a chance to start with a fresh slate and get back to their consistent, top eight ways. Although to start the season, they will be forced to deal with some injured players, fans will be hopeful they can get off to a good start and enjoy a sound season. Boasting some tremendous players that can make a solid impact during games, they also have several youngsters to choose from that will be pushing for first-grade. With a mix of youth and experience, can this be the year the Roosters get back into the upper echelons of the competition?
One of the crucial players for the Roosters is halfback Mitchell Pearce. His talent is evident but off-field exploits have seen him play sporadically at times affecting both his form and the form of the team. Although he knuckled down and performed strongly towards the back end of the 2016 season after his return, consistency will be the mitigating factor for him, both for his Origin claims and for the betterment of the team. A fit and firing Pearce is perhaps the most crucial element for the Roosters in 2017 if they are to have any chance of challenging the top contenders.
Following on from that will be how well Pearce and likely new half Luke Keary link up. Having never played together at the top level, their relationship as a halves duo will either shape up as a boom or a bust. Keary, in his own right, is a talented player, even if he had his critics during his time at previous club, the Rabbitohs. With Pearce likely to be the dominant half and control the game and the tempo of the club’s attack, Keary will be relied upon to provide some running spark and catch out the tiring forwards. He is capable of doing so but will have to pick his moment and make the runs at the right time, rather than trying to usurp the work that Pearce is doing on the other side of the field.
Blessed with numerous young backs pressing their first-grade claims, one wing spot is apparently still up for grabs if one was to believe the rumours that Daniel Tupou is on the outer at the club. An inconsistent player that draws the ire of Roosters fans, his spot is on thin ice and with some talented youngster making pressing claims of their own for that spot, Tupou is no guarantee to play.
Johnny Tuivasa-Sheck and Joseph Manu are the two primary candidates apart from Tupou for that spot and having impressed in the past at different times, it presents quite the dilemma for coach Trent Robinson.
In a nutshell, the Roosters have a talented roster that has the potential to go places in 2017. Their hopes, whilst largely resting on the shoulders of Pearce, also requires the players around him to step up and perform. Whilst Pearce is the glue that will hold the side together, he needs the resources around him to play their roles and ease his burden against the top teams.
Capable of winning games on his own, Pearce’s role and influence will never be so crucial in a season where the fans are expecting the Roosters to bounce back and do so well. The slew of new recruits, youngsters and veteran stars provide what appears to be a winning formula on paper. However, in the NRL, we all know that games are not won on paper but rather, they are won by the actions of a football team on the field. The Roosters are capable of success but need consistency across the park if they are to achieve it.
Best Buy: Every team needs experience to help guide their younger brigade around the park and with the relative inexperience of Latrell Mitchell, signing someone to help him develop and grow is imperative. To combat that and to help him learn, the Roosters have signed veteran custodian Michael Gordon. A fan favourite of the three teams he has played for in the past, Gordon’s experience has seen him become an established, reliable player that can not only perform consistently but can draw the very best out of the club’s younger generation. What you see is what you get with Gordon and he will perform at his best and looms as a under-rated contender in the Roosters chances this season.
Best Young Talent: Having already tasted first-grade, Joseph Manu looms as a genuine contender for a wing spot in 2017. With continued uncertainty about the future of Daniel Tupou, there is a chance for Manu to usurp the more experienced winger if he is able to perform consistently during the trials and impress coach Robinson. Although in some respect, experience might work out better in the eyes of some, knowing what Manu is capable of as a player and the potential he has, many Roosters fans would much rather see Manu get the opportunity as they start to plan for the future. As a player, Manu is exactly what you want in a young, potential first-grader. He has a nifty step, good acceleration and upper body strength to deal with any would-be defenders. Very Tupou-esque in some ways in size and style of play, he has proven that he is a genuine contender for the wing spot and that he would not look out of place should the opportunity be given to him.
2017 Gains: Paul Carter, Mitch Cornish, Michael Gordon, Brock Gray, Luke Keary, Liam Knight, Brenden Santi, Chris Smith & Zane Tetevano.
Our predicted Roosters side at full-strength is:
1. Michael Gordon
2. Latrell Mitchell
3. Blake Ferguson
4. Shaun Kenny-Dowall
5. Joseph Manu
6. Connor Watson
7. Mitchell Pearce
8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
9. Jake Friend (C)
10. Dylan Napa
11. Boyd Cordner
12. Mitchell Aubusson
13. Sio Siua Taukeiaho
14. Paul Carter
15. Issac Liu
16. Aidan Guerra
17. Nat Butcher