Ryan Fernance has been a member with the Roosters since 2010, and was born a fan of the Tricolours – rumour has it that when he was born the placenta was red, white and blue. He and wrote to 26 Rounds about putting his myriad thoughts about the season so far into a review of the first third of the season. So without further ado, 26 Rounds welcomes the first guest post since the website was conceived.
(If you would also like to contribute, feel free to get in touch.)
The Sydney Roosters Trimester report card
BY Ryan Fernance
Another Sunday afternoon comes to an end and as I sit here the Roosters have thoroughly beaten the Panthers to the tune of 30-6. It was not our best game of the season, and that excites me — as even on an off day we still pull 30 points out of the bag.
If someone had told me at the beginning of the season that after eight rounds we would be outright third on the table with six wins and two losses I would have taken it with two hands gladly.
We are statistically the best attacking and defending team in the competition and in my opinion still have a lot of improvement left in us. Michael Jennings is only now starting to hit his straps, Shaun Kenny-Dowall still has not reached top attacking gear, Daniel Tupou needs to inject himself into the game more and Lama Tasi, Kane Evans and Dylan Napa haven’t had a taste of first grade yet this season. So when I say we have a lot of improvement in us I mean it.
So with this in mind I’m going to run my mind back over the games we’ve had so far and our best players at this point in the season. Consider this almost a ‘trimester’ report card, and enjoy the mini memory lane trip.
Round 1: South Sydney @ Sydney Roosters (LOSS 28-10)
Hype. This match was almost built up as a grand final and us Easts fans probably let ourselves get a little carried away. South Sydney are now in their third year as a unit playing together and at this point we had not played one match.
Before kickoff Luke O’Donnell was ruled out and I think that had a bigger impact than most believe as he is one of our big boppers and Souths beat us through the middle of the ruck. Their forwards rolled over us and we didn’t have an answer, while they scored three tries down RTS’s wing due to poor positional defence which he has since very much improved. We were not as bad as the scoreline indicated and some of our play foreshadowed the brilliance that was to come. Also to those who think Burgess ran over SBW, go back and watch the tackle: SBW completes it. SBW 1, Burgess 0.
Round 2: Sydney Roosters @ NZ Warriors (WIN 16-14)
The Warriors were soundly beaten in round one by Parramatta but they are always a challenge at home — as has since been proven with a great performance against Souths and beating the Cowboys and Titans. We needed a win after a poor first start loss, and as it turned out the Warriors game was what the doctor ordered.
We won the match 16-14; however, we were up 16-0 in a scrappy affair. Once we hit our 16-0 lead we took our foot off the pedal, which is the worst thing you can do in the NRL, and the Warriors nearly made us pay. But toughing out a close win would hold us in good stead for the upcoming challenges.
Round 3: Brisbane Broncos @ Sydney Roosters (WIN 8-0)
Apart from a back and forth try fest at Suncorp in 2010 the Broncos have had our measure recently, which is why going into the match with scrappy form had me a little worried. Brisbane hadn’t had the best start to the year so far but knowing the Roosters as I do I was aware of our ability to play teams into form. But the 2013 Roosters are a different beast and seem to be able to adapt the game plan to the game being played.
This match was a dour affair with only eight points in it, all of which came in the first half. SBW began to show his form in this match with a beauty of a pass to Maloney for the only try of the match.
But this game built the Great Wall of Bondi. We held the Broncos to nil and marched on to a match with Sticky Stuart and the Parramatta Eels.
Round 4: Parramatta Eels @ Sydney Roosters (WIN 50-0)
Well, what can I say? The Eels to this point had shown some decent form and there were whispers of an upset before the match. That door was shut about 30 seconds into the game and the Roosters flexed their muscles in what was a boys vs. men display.
We ran roughshod over a team that was beaten in every single facet of the game and the most pleasing effort wasn’t the 50 or even the nil but rather the tenacity of our defence. Toward the end of the match the Eels had a repeat set of six on our line and a try would have meant nothing in the grand scheme of things. Jacob Loko crashed over the line only to be held up with some desperation defence that shows a dedication among the players to the jersey and their teammates, a dedication that’s been missing from Bondi since Freddy wore the RW&B.
Round 5: Sydney Roosters @ Canberra Raiders (LOSS 24-22)
Chalk this one up as a game the Roosters lost, not one that the Raiders won. Leading 16-0 on a cold, miserable Canberra night with a mammoth game the next Friday no doubt on the players’ minds led to us having our pants pulled down by a Raiders team that since this match has gone on to revitalise their season and knock off the unbeaten Melbourne Storm. As soon as our streak of “to nil” scorelines was broken you could see the boys’ heads drop, and from there the Raiders had us.
What did I say about playing teams into form?
Round 6: Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs @ Sydney Roosters (WIN 38-0)
Billed as the mother of all grudge matches, the fearsome Bulldogs came into the game with a bark but gave nothing more than a whimper as the brilliant Roosters showed them how a real team plays football.
It was close for the first 15 minutes and then class took over. Sonny Bill Williams had a barnstorming game, claiming two tries and generally terrorising the Bulldogs defence.
This was one of the most satisfying victories in seasons, but not more so than what came next.
Round 7: St. George Illawarra Dragons @ Sydney Roosters (WIN 34-10)
Simply one of the most awe-inspiring days on the NRL calendar, the traditional ANZAC Day fixture is a match in which the Dragons have had our measure. We hadn’t won the match since 2007 when we notched up our 1000th premiership victory as a club (the first club to do so, mind you). We also suffered heartbreak last year in a match that may well have doomed our season. But so far this year we’ve met our hoodoos and this match was another answer.
The Dragons on the other hand had no answer, and in front of 40,752 fans and servicemen we showed our premiership credentials playing in a finals-like atmosphere.
We conceded the first try in a match for the first time all season but it hardly mattered as we clinically dismantled the Dragons and cemented our top four spot.
Round 8: Penrith Panthers @ Sydney Roosters (WIN 30-6)
And so we arrive at our most recent match against another team that usually has the wood on us. I’m still smarting from our season sweep at the hands of the Panthers last year, including the 18-0 round two match up where Jennings man-handled our right edge defence.
But the difference is this year Jennings is wearing red, white and blue and he showed the Panthers exactly what they lost with a two-try haul that was more memorable for his solid, unflinching defence than his blistering speed. The Panthers stuck strong with us for the first half and we were not at our best, but for a team that in years past would have crumbed and lost when playing below form we grinded out a differential-boosting victory against a team we still hate after 2003.
So there we have it. 6 wins. 2 losses. Our next three matches are the biggest test of our season to date: Manly at Brookvale, North Queensland in North Queensland and Melbourne at the SFS. Three matches that when I looked at the draw in the pre-season I honestly chalked up as losses, but with our form so far this year and the difference Trent Robinson has made to the mindset of this team I am giving us a HUGE chance to snag all three.
My fearless predictions are a win against Manly and the Cowboys and a golden point loss to Melbourne. And I’ll tell you what, that would be a fantastic result and no doubt boost our confidence heading into the business end of the season.
The Roosters Trimester MVPs
So who do I think have been our top three players so far this year? The first two won’t surprise anyone — but the third just might.
1: James ‘BBQ’ Maloney
He has been just flat-out awesome. His partnership with Mitchell Pearce has allowed Mitch to inject himself when needed, and James is terrorising teams with the ball himself. A great kicking game, solid running game and a high football IQ has James as our best five-eighth since the glory days of Freddy Fittler.
May he retire in the RW&B.
2: Sonny ‘OMG’ Bill Williams
A consummate professional, his on field work has been great but from all reports what he has brought to the team off the field has been an even bigger impact.
Sonny knows what it takes to succeed at the highest level of sport and is showing our boys both young and old how to replicate it. I dearly hope he stays for 2014 if not longer. Sonny, we love you.
3. Anthony ‘The Count’ Minichiello
What’s that you say? What about Jennings? Or Pearce? Or JWH? All those blokes are irreplaceable and we’d be worse off without them, but our beloved captain this season has been fantastic.
Still the best fullback in the league under the high ball and now one who injects himself as a support player when needed, Robinson has Mini playing his best footy since 2004. He was guilty early in the year of poor attacking play, but that was when he was trying to be Billy Slater. Minichiello doesn’t possess that skill set but as a support runner he is still one of the best and the inspiration he gives in the locker room is second to none.
I’ve never been prouder of my favourite Rooster.
And that concludes my trimester report card. I’d give the Roosters a B+ so far this season with the potential for an A+ waiting in the wings. This has been the most exciting season to be an Easts fan for a long time and I am enjoying the ride and taking things as they come.
So get out to the matches, buy your membership and scream “GO EASTS” each weekend because this is a great ride. And it’s not over yet.
– Ryan Fernance (Twitter: @DimorphicAU)