1. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (LW: 2)
Like a stiffy at a business meeting, JWH stood up and everyone has taken notice.
All year JWH has been at or near the best of the Roosters, but his last two performances have catapulted him to the top of these rankings.
Against the Dragons he was incredible, with 18 hit-ups for 147 metres with four offloads and no penalties, while against the Panthers he ran for 152 metres off 15 runs with another two offloads.
But he also threw a no-look pass that made Benji and Hayne blush, and led to a try under the posts for MP7.
In the last two weeks he hasn’t given away a penalty while making 58 tackles for just one miss.
His weakness in the past has been a one-dimensional bash-and-barge game mixed in with cheap penalties, and he’s eliminated both of those Achilles Heels.
2. James Maloney (LW: 1)
The BBQ only falls due to the sublime play of the man in front of him.
He’s wrestled the long kicking duties away from MP7 and has added an improved defensive effort and an underrated attacking passing game to his repertoire.
He hasn’t broken the line in the last two matches, but his influence in attack has been felt elsewhere.
He had two try assists against the Panthers, with 71 metres off nine runs and eight kicks for 228 metres.
He gave away three penalties which is a concern but not enough to drop from the top two. However, number three is hot on his heels.
3. Sonny Bill Williams (LW: 3)
This was the one game you could consider “off” for the superstar.
And by off, we mean this play:
He offloaded 10 metres out for what could have been the best pass ever witnessed, but it landed in the hands of a Panther. The Roosters were given a penalty for offside.
SBW was pissed. You could see it. So he took the hit up off the tap and barged over past five defenders to score.
Yep, he was “off”.
In all he ran for 87 metres off 10 hit-ups with five tackle busts, three offloads, a line break, a line break assist, 23 tackles and no misses.
4. Michael Jennings (LW: 4)
Jennings scored two tries due to the brilliance of his inside men as the Roosters continually aimed the ball down his side of the field against his former club.
But it was his defence that keeps him at number four this week.
Against Dean Whare he was credited with 22 tackles and no missed and – as has been well documented here – has missed just two tackles all season. The quality of his defence stood out though against the Panthers, as Jenko was up in their faces all game.
Whether that was a by-product of his coming up against Ivan Cleary and his former club is up for debate, but heading into a game against Jamie Lyon and the Panthers there is a confidence in his defence that didn’t exist nine weeks ago. He’s continually locked up his opposite man like a jaw following a bite from a rapid German Shepherd.
5. Mitchell Pearce (LW: 5)
MP7 has struggled to crack the top four this year but that doesn’t diminish the quality of the work he’s done this year.
Against the Panthers he ran it six times with three offloads, two tackle busts and a line break, with a great wing-bombing game. His kicks were slightly – repeat, SLIGHTLY – off against the Panthers which prevents him from moving up.
6. Boyd Cordner (LW: 7)
Behind JWH his last two games when combined have been the best forward displays for the Roosters. Yound Boyd has thrusted himself firmly into Origin reckoning and it would not surprise if he made the squad ahead of Ryan Hoffman or Glenn Stewart, who is still coming back from injury.
He ran it 14 times for 122 metres against the Panthers, and his quick play-the-balls enables Jake Friend and Daniel Mortimer to find lazy marker defence snoozing.
He’s been guilty of a few missed tackles and errors this year but last week he had neither. For a 20-year-old, he’s performing like a 10-year veteran. Given his age and inexperience, he’s probably giving a better performance on the field than he is in the sack.
(26 Rounds remembers his days in the sack when he was 20. His partners at the time do not. But I digress.)
7. Jake Friend (LW: 6)
Some of Friendy’s work last week was fantastic, other parts not so much. His service out of dummy half was erratic but his running game remained very solid, a running game which included the first try of the match much to the chagrin of the 26 Rounds petty cash account which picked essentially everyone but Jake for first try.
Despite the erratic play against the Panthers he remains in superb form heading into the clash against the Sea Eagles’ Matt Ballin. He had 40 tackles and no misses last week with a try, 46 metres off six runs, two tackle busts, an offload and a line break.
8. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (LW: 8)
For a winger that didn’t score a try he was damn involved.
The Future Fullback For The Sydney Roosters ran it 17 times for 139 metres with five tackle busts and two line breaks.
He still needs some work on defusing bombs, and with Mini back there – who is still the safest under the high ball as mentioned in the Trimester Report by Roosters diehard and contributor Ryan Fernance – RTS has the time to develop this part of his game.
9. Mitchell Aubusson (LW: 10)
Mitch was outstanding against the Panthers in defence. He was credited with 25 tackles but the quality and scrappiness about each tackle made the stalwart stand out.
Barring injury he has cemented a spit in the back row for the Roosters for the season, and rightly so. His attack against the Dragons was suerb, his defence against the Panthers even better.
Aubo does what needs to be done. He’s like the Wolf in Pulp Fiction: He solves problems.
10. Anthony Minichiello (LW: NR)
This was Mini’s best game this year. One run up the middle not only gave the Roosters some much needed metres but reminded this writer of a better time: a time when Mini was the best player in the world and he chewed up metres without worrying about back injuries and age.
He had 12 runs for 118 metres with two tackle busts, and was as safe as an investment in Apple stock.
Luke O’Donnell, who provided go-forward and surprised all with four off-loads against the Panthers; Shaun Kenny-Dowall, who played more direct than any Roosters fan remembers him playing; and Sam Moa, who only drops out due to an injury he suffered in the first 10 minutes against the Panthers, ruling him out for at least two weeks.
UPDATED: An earlier version of this article mentions a spilled bomb by RTS against the Panthers. RTS didn’t spill shit. My bad.