In a blog post earlier this week (in the comments section), Buzz of the Daily Telegraph declared that the Roosters would miss the eight. I’m not entirely sure if he was trying to bait Roosters supporters or that really was his opinion, but missing the eight this year would be a fucking travesty with the collection of talent that is in this team.
Seriously, look at this team on paper and spot a weakness which doesn’t involve a prevalence to alcohol. If all goes to plan and Tautau Moga makes it back, the top 17 should look something like this:
Fullback: Anthony Minichiello or Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Wings: Moga, Mini/RT-S
Centres: Michael Jennings and Shaun Kenny-Dowall
Five Eighth: James Maloney
Halfback: Mitchell Pearce
Props: Martin Kennedy and Jared Warea-Hargreaves
Hooker: Jake Friend
Second Row: Sonny-Bill Williams and Boyd Cordner
Lock: Frank-Paul Nuuasala
Bench: Mitchell Aubusson, Aiden Guerra, Nafe Seluini and Lama Tasi
So despite there being way too many hyphens in there, this is a formidable team. They had one of the more aggressive forward packs in the league last year, even with Brian Smith showing all the hallmarks of selection Tourette’s while providing a gameplan akin to a round of 52 pickup.
Mitchell Pearce should thrive under a coach he likes, much like he did when showing improvement under Freddy. And combine him with the line-breaking Maloney (right) running short plays off Friend or backing up offloads and the halves are a major, MAJOR improvement on what they showed last year.
With Moga out until somewhere past the halfway point in the season, you could chuck Michael Oldfield in there and make do until then.
I’m a bit iffy on Mini at fullback, as I’m sure many Roosters fans are these days. Courageous as he was to come back from all those injuries – remember, he had a piece of his spine FUCKING SHAVED OFF (no more bitching from you or I about a stubbed toe or itchy beard) – the fact that he had some of those discs fused (how he is still walking is unbelievable) means he simply can’t bend over and pick up grubbers.
On the wing he makes sense, as he’ll have help around him on the line and he won’t necessarily have to fall back if coach Trent Robinson uses the increasingly-common tactic of dropping only the fullback and strong-side wing back. It makes more sense when you consider who’s waiting to take that number 1 for the next ten years: The guy to the left, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
Anyone who saw him last year can’t wait for the future, but the present is pretty fucking good. That step he has is lightning: he can break the defender’s ankles with it all while making his own look like they’re made from rubber. He needs to be a fullback but perhaps wing is better now for his development. However, I think that’s a waste, as the thought of him busting the line mid-field off a Sonny-Bill offload makes me want to tweak my nipples like this guy:
I don’t think the centres need any introduction: Jennings after all has been dominating the headlines, and SKD is fast becoming a favourite son at Bondi, sideways runs notwithstanding. Two years ago both these guys were considered among the best in their positions and both have played for their country.
I’ve already copped grief about Jennings’ attitude and how he “fits in already” but here’s the thing: Penrith have let go of everyone and attached an excuse to it: Luke Lewis (not captain material), Michael Gordon (injury-prone, and his push for fullback wasn’t a team-first move), Frank Pritchard (inconsistent, “soft” and a little overpaid) and now Jennings (poor attitude, not value for money). At what point do you stop pointing the finger at the players and start pointing them at Gus? He has a history of putting pathetic teams together: he put the 2002 Rabbitohs together after they were reinstated and they promptly disgraced their way to another spoon.
Jennings needed a change of scenery. He went and got himself an on-shore breeze and the best team around him since Origin.
If Kennedy stays injury free they have a weapon. Remember, at the start of 2011 they were talking about him for Origin. And JWH had his best season ever, cutting down on the penalties and consistently leading this team in energy and defence. I think he’s the one guy Brian Smith had a really positive influence on: Nathan Hindmarsh credits Smith for his work ethic and I think he has had a similar influence on Jared. Just watch his body language at marker – he pounces.
I think Cordner is absolutely fantastic. Multi-skilled, tough as Kevlar and just loves the game and the Roosters. We’ve needed a kid like this since Mini came through. Frank Paul at lock is inconsistent but on his day is just devastating; either way, you could bring someone like Aubusson or Guerra off the bench in that place depending on the style Robinson wants to go with.
Tasi off the bench is a beast, and one of the players that Manly truly regrets that the Roosters got a hold of. He’s got a shifty little step at the line that makes him a threat 10 metres out and can knock the bullshit out of anyone (hopefully someone like Ennis).
Friend and Seluini should make a good tandem at hooker. Friend has a lot more skill and his smarts are starting to come through. And he tackles his arse off – although runners will make metres on him and drag him along, he never falls off. Seluini can come off the bench and change the pace with that running game out of dummy half he showed last year.
Finally, we have Sonny Bill Williams. Fucking freak of an athlete. His only weakness is injury and his agent that keeps him on one-year deals. His patented shoulder-charge is nullified but he can still hit people. Hard. Also, he’s been playing rugby so the shoulder charge has come out of his game already.
His running game is dynamic, like Greg Inglis’ but in the body of Tariq Sims. But it’s that offload that makes him the most valuable asset to this club since the purchase of God from Penrith back in the 90s.
Skill in the forwards is what we lacked last year, and now we have one of the most skilled ball-playing forwards to ever lace up a boot. That offload is lethal and before he left for Rugby he took the inconsistency and risk out of it. In his last season at the ‘Dogs he’d perfected it – he was considered the best player in the world for a reason, and there’s a reason he’s grabbed the headlines since his return. Fuck, he made Daniel Holdsworth look like Wally Lewis (who? Exactly).
He is a godsend to this Roosters side, providing everything we needed last year. Here’s some proof of what he can do:
They’re paying $15 for the premiership and I don’t mind the idea of a cheeky hundy on it. It would be an absolute shock – nay, a disgrace – if they miss the eight this year. I think Buzz needs a lie-down or a headcheck to be perfectly honest.
I can’t wait for Thursday, March 7 against the Rabbitohs – the papers will be forced to write about this team then.