1. Sonny Bill Williams (LW: 1)
Missing three tackles in one game after not missing any in the previous four games is not nearly enough to justify a drop in the rankings, especially after another vintage performance against the Raiders in their 24-22 loss.
Statistically, our very own version of Michael Jordan — who returned from baseball to much fanfare and took a while to really get back to pre-baseball form — was better this week than he was last week, missed tackles and a loss notwithstanding.
He was the only forward to threaten the triple-figure metre barrier with 98 metres off 11 runs in the full 80 minutes, while he also completed 31 tackles.
The try he set up for Minichiello was one for the ages. Winding up from 30 metres out, he held the ball in one hand like he used to asa Bulldog, and stepped through some scared defence before offloading around the corner for an unmarked Mini, who picked the ball up off his laces to score in the second half.
(Scroll to the 1:55 mark in the video below to see some brilliant SBW.)
In all he had four offloads, three tackle busts, a linebreak and a try assist, and is in incredible form heading into his return match against the ‘Dogs on Friday.
2. James Maloney (LW: 4)
It was the BBQ’s defence against a rampaging Josh Papalii on Sunday that really stood out to 26 Rounds, as he repeatedly stood up against the massive Raiders’ second rower and prevented at least one target from breaking the line at will. He made 24 tackles with three misses, but none of those misses led to a try and many a half has been left in the big fella’s wake in the past.
In attack he was just as good, and was the only player besides the man above him who really threatened the line. He broke it twice — once off an unexpected no-look pass from the man below him — and scored a try through two forwards in a great show of strength.
He is the best hole-runner in the game and his toughness and kicking game are surprising many Roosters fans who had only seen the five-eighth when they could be bothered to flick it over to Warriors games in the past 2-3 years.
Again, his running game was smooth and accurate, and he was the dominant playmaker for the Chooks. He had 6 runs for 73 metres, four tackle busts, two line breaks, a try, a try assist, and seven kicks for 292 metres.
3. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (LW: 3)
He lacked the impact in attack he’s had through the first four rounds against the Raiders on Sunday, with just 10 runs for 74 metres. But he added a little wrinkle to his game which we have never seen before: his sick no-look pass off the hip to the BBQ would’ve given Brad Fittler an erection, and led directly to a line break. Add this to his offloads last week and we are really starting to see JWH develop an all-round game.
Defensively he was again the Roosters’ best in 52 minutes of game time: 41 tackles without a miss, and no penalties. REPEAT: NO PENALTIES.
4. Michael Jennings (Last week: 2)
MJ didn’t get many opportunities out wide, and might not get the same chances that he had through the first three rounds with SBW taking his talents over to the right. But he went looking for the ball and was as active as possible in the middle of the field, with 10 runs.
He didn’t break the line for the first time this season as the Raiders — and poor discipline with the ball — prevented Jennings from finding enough space to get a wind up.
However, in the final seconds off the scrum, with the Raiders clinging to a two point lead in the Roosters’ 10-metre zone, the ball went wide to Jenko who drew the winger and threw a round-the-corner offload to a streaking Michael Oldfield who ran a good 30 metres — before Oldfield put in the worst banana kick in the history of not just banana kicks, but in the history of bananas and kicks.
defensively he remained solid and continues to impress in this area, with 13 tackles and no misses and some solid reads out on the left. The only try that has been scored over that side all season was on Sunday, when Oldfield failed to contest a bomb against the much-smaller Sandor Earl.
That’s actually an incredible statistic. Jennings deserves a heap of credit for that.
5. Mitchell Pearce (LW: 5)
His booming kick in the second half with the Roosters trapped in their own 30 metre line in the 2nd half — a kick which ended up on the Raiders’ tryline — is indicative of how good MP7’s boot has been all season. And Mitch’s developing short kicking game bore some fruit for the first time this season, when he but in a sweet grubber for Mitch Aubusson to score in the first half.
He is directing the play around perfectly for the Roosters in the past two games, but he’s been let down by poor discipline, handling and defence elsewhere in the team. The Roosters were playing with some pace at the line in the first 15 minutes in Canberra but dropped the ball four times in the first five sets, two of them by Luke O’Donnell from MP7 pitches.
He ran the ball only once but otherwise led the team around the park with confidence.
6. Anthony Minichiello (LW: 8)
He spilled a spiralling bomb early in the second half that even Jack Bauer couldn’t defuse. We can’t fault him for that. And otherwise he played well and chose the right options in-goal, taking the ball dead more than once rather than risk a try.
He somehow caught the miracle ball from SBW and even at 32 years of age is still one of the better support players in the world.
7. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (LW: 6)
He was dangerous with the ball but was nowhere to be found in Edrick Lee’s try in the second half, with SBW the widest man on the right wing.
Where was the Sheck?
The zero-points-allowed thing for the past two weeks doesn’t hide the following statistic: of the 12 tries scored against the Roosters this season, seven have been scored in the centre-wing positions out on the right-hand wing (not counting Shaun Johnson’s runaway try for the Warriors in round two, which was also scored out wide).
While one of those tries can also be put down to Mini failing to clean up a grubber against the Warriors, both The Sheck and Shaun Kenny-Dowall need to fix up the defence out there.
The Sheck remains falls just one spot purely because everyone else was pretty poor last week and because he was really, really good in attack. He had 12 runs for 97 metres, and was safe under the high ball despite being targeted by Sam Williams on a number of occasions and despite an obvious height disadvantage against Lee.
But they need to work on the gaps out on the right.
8. Jake Friend (LW: 10)
He’s trying his hand at gereal play kicking recently to mixed results — his first was solid in the first half against the Raiders, but his second went out on the full. With the BBQ and MP7 outside him, there really is no need for him to keep kicking.
But his running game has returned and showed some smarts in Camberra, running it three times. He also had three line break assist and a try assist in an impressive performance, while showing his usual toughness in defence for a small guy.
He’s going to continue to be a target, if only because his size means forwards are going to make an extra metre at least when they make contact. But he rarely falls off the tackle and has put to rest — for the moment at least — calls for Daniel Mortimer to take his spot.
9. Sam Moa (LW: NR)
The big fella from Tonga was one of the few forwards to make a dent against the huge Raiders pack, running it 10 times for 85 metres. The front row spot is his — with Kennedy still below what we know he’s capable of and both Lama Tasi and Kane Evans yet to taste first grade this year.
He works hard in defence as will, contributing 28 tackles against the Raiders without a miss. He doesn’t have the skill that Tasi or Evans have, but does his job every week without any hype. he’s been an unexpectedly solid signing for the Chooks, and Craig Fitzgibbon deserves a lot of credit for recommending to Trent Robinson to get him over from the English Super League.
10. Boyd Cordner (LW: 9)
He went off after 34 minutes after his head hit the hip of a Raiders player, causing the blood to flow like piss after six beers. he dropped the ball early on but until he went off he was very solid, with six runs and 11 tackles.
Defensively he needs some work, and has a tendency to fall off tackles late. But given he’s still only 20 and coming off two knee reconstructions, a broken jaw, a shoulder injury and now a busted noggin, i think we can let that one slide.
I still maintain this man is a future Roosters captain. He just needs to stay healthy.
Daniel Tupou, who didn’t play against the Raiders which caused him to drop from 10th; Mitch Aubusson, who scored a try and was solid last week; and Marty Kennedy, who is improving with every game but is still off the pace we know he’s capable of.