I thought I’d start a new gimmick which I’ve completely ripped off ESPN, which does “power rankings” – basically ranking teams on performances regardless of team records on a week-by-week basis, which is completely subjective and takes into account the teams they win against, the toughness of the schedule and how they win, among other intangibles.
So with that in mind I’m going to write up, after each round and prior to the teams being announced each Tuesday, the 26 Rounds Sydney Roosters Player Rankings.
Sure, I’m starting after our first win. But what that shows is A) I didn’t feel like writing shit after that first game, and B) I’m looking to start a bit of debate among Roosters fans about their preferences for the rankings system, rather than just sticking to the previews, match reports and the occasional stab at opposing fans such as Rabbitohs deadbeats.
So hopefully everyone realises that these are simply opinions and totally open to debate. I personally think the player at the top of the rankings this week has been far and away our most dangerous player but other fans may want someone who’s had a higher workrate, for example. I’ll try and back up everything with stats where possible but the game can’t purely be measured in statistics. The “what I see” test is still the best metric in my books.
(By the way, I’m restricting it to a top 10, with a “notable omissions” section. It makes so much sense to do so purely from a work ethic standpoint, of which I have little.)
Without further ado, here’s the first Roosters Rankings of the year. And if you dispute anything feel free to comment in the comments section at the foot of the article.
1. Michael Jennings
Jennings broke the line twice last week and once against the Rabbitohs, and while he hasn’t got a try or try assist in his game he has far-and-away been the most explosive player for the Roosters through the first two rounds. Both James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce have given him great service in each game and kept him involved, and he’s been able to show the full array of his talents already, even as the combinations are still beginning to form.
When he doesn’t find space he’s easily making the metres anyway with a combination of upper body strength, left and right hand fends and footwork.
His break against the Warriors came from inside his own half and it won’t be the first one he makes, while the combination between him, SBW and James Maloney will be – without question – the most dangerous attacking side in the NRL at the end of the season.
2. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
He’s only played a total of 90 minutes through the first two games but his impact and workrate have been phenomenal in limited minutes: 24 runs for 179 metres, 73 tackles with no misses and fantastic energy at marker. He’s still prone to penalties (two in each game) but defensively he sets the tone at the beginning and end of each game.
His pure aggression hurts the opposition in attack and while he might not make the metres that a Sam Moa or Luke O’Donnell does, he needs three or more players to bring him down, throwing the defence into scrambling mode early in each tackle count and tiring them from the kickoff.
If he could ever add an offload he’d be unstoppable.
3. James Maloney
He’s developing that combination out left nicely, and really took on the challenge against the Warriors by dominating the kicking game (12 kicks for 379 metres) and spreading the ball to Jennings when it was on.
He’s showing more of an organiser’s game this year; a part of his game that I thought would suffer with Mitchell Pearce as his halfback. But he controlled the game perfectly against the Warriors while scoring a try and continually challenging the line against the Rabbitohs.
Once he figures out the nuances of new recruits Jennings and the man below him on the Roosters Player Rankings, look out.
4. Sonny Bill Williams
Williams is coming along nicely after five years out of the game. He played 52 minutes in round one off the bench, and the full 80 minutes against the Warriors. During that time he’s scored a late try and offloaded superbly to Jennings for a great break.
The team has shied away from going to him on every occasion and in the first half of the Warriors game he ran it just three times before upping that to nine in the second half. He’s ranked so highly not because of his potential, but because of his defence. He’s made 45 tackles with no misses in two games after making just two tackles in union (an educated guess).
He’s done something to make you go “whoa” in each game, and it’s only a matter of time before he’s comfortable and his workrate increases in attack — and we see more of that beautiful offload.
5. Mitchell Aubusson
He’s had three line breaks in two games and one superb try against the Warriors, while providing the gap-finding nous the Roosters need as SBW acclimatises.
He’s made 57 tackles with just one miss and has probably earned a spot on the bench; at the expense of who, we’ll find out this week.
6. Mitchell Pearce
He hasn’t really had the chance to shine after copping two high shots in as many games and playing second fiddle to Maloney. But his long kicking game has been first rate and the combo with Maloney is developing nicely. He’s taking the line on when the chance arises and his defence has been rock-solid as always.
His short kicking game needs work, but last week he earned a repeat set with one grubber, which is something we haven’t seen in three years.
7. Sam Moa
He doesn’t pass at all but his defence is solid and, with Martin Kennedy struggling, has probably done enough already to hold his spot.
8. Anthony Minichiello
I mentioned he’s been rocks or diamonds in the Warriors match report and I stand by that. He drops the ball when bursting through half-gaps and struggles with grubbers, but his defusing of bombs remains among the best in all of rugby league and scored a try that only Mini could score.
All things being equal the pros have outweighed the cons thus far, although I do still believe his eventual landing spot as his career winds down is on the wing with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck waiting for the No. 1 jersey.
9. Luke O’Donnell
He dropped the ball almost immediately after coming on in his first game as a Chook but recovered well to provide enough go-forward that Martin Kennedy has suddenly become redundant. He made 12 runs for 124 metres and did so against a bruising forward pack of kiwis.
If he can somehow manage to stay healthy he will be a big asset – for a year at least.
10. Daniel Tupou
Daniel Tupou is impressing everyone by getting involved and amongst it. For a rake of a man he loves the tough stuff up the middle and has made us all forget about Sam Perrett’s work ethic out of dummy half and on kick returns.
His excellent layup-pass to Minichiello was classy (although if he passed it inside to Cordner I would’ve had my first tryscorer with Centrebet… fucker) and he almost scored against the Bunnies but for a horrible ball from Jennings on the break. He hasn’t had a full chance to wind up but should get plenty of opportunities this year backing up Jennings.
Daniel Mortimer, who has been more impressive as the dummy-half understudy in attack than Jake Friend; Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who in very limited opportunity has shown that exceptional footwork that will make him a star as soon as he’s moved to fullback; and Boyd Cordner, who impressed on both sides of the ball despite a shoulder injury which is clearly not 100 per cent.