1. Jake Friend (LW: 4)
Welcome to the penthouse Jake Friend. If you keep playing the way you’re playing for the rest of the year, you’re going to be bloody hard to evict from here.
Freddy/God mentioned during the Channel 9 boradcast that, in talking to Roosters’ strength and conditioning coach Keegan Smith, he was told that Friend is one of the few people he knows that can lift his own body weight above his head. Not only does this explain his enormous tackle counts this year and an improved ability to stop players in their tracks (in previous years forwards could make an extra metre or two running at a clinging-on Friend), but it made this writer extremely self-conscious as I can barely lift an apple over my head without getting a hernia.
He set the tone early in the Panthers game with several darting runs and a try coming off the back of the rarest of Roosters plays: a second-straight repeat set.
He made 30 tackles without a miss, had seven runs for 62 metres, scored a try and had a line break assist in 62 minutes. More telling though was the way the Roosters played when he was off: in short, they were off.
He’s setting the tone along with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and he’s earning the plaudits from the rest of the rugby league world.
2. Boyd Cordner (LW: 3)
Beaver 2.0 (again, just saying that to piss Manly fans off) is scoring more than Charlie Sheen’s dealer at the moment, with eight tries in his past six matches, basically since Trent Robinson moved him over to the left-hand side of the field from his previous roaming lock roll.
But not only that, he’s getting metres effortlessly and making that extra metre. Combine that with his quick play-the-ball and the Roosters are truly getting a roll-on with Boyd nowadays. They have scored nine tries on the play following his play-the-ball and he’s scored nine tries himself — that’s a solid statistical piece of evidence of how good this guy is.
Against the Panthers he scored two tries, ran it 16 times for 150 metres, had two tackle busts and gave up his first offload of the season. He also made 28 tackles and missed three, and it’s an area he could improve in. But apart from Jake Friend he’s been their most consistent forward since returning from Origin.
3. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (LW: 2)
Defensively he is still setting the tone, but his energy seemed a bit down against the Panthers and it looked to have affected his game. He didn’t make the metres off his runs that we’ve become accustomed to (126 off 15 runs) and he gave away two cheap penalties (one for laziness and another for silliness).
That’s not to say JWH wasn’t great against the Panthers. He made 26 tackles without a miss and his passing game is coming to the fore: he had a line break assist to Maloney and he’s got a great no-look pass going left or right. It’s adding a dimension to his game and making everyone around him — and himself along with them — more dangerous in attack.
It wouldn’t hurt to shave the bum fluff off though, champ.
4. Mitchell Pearce (LW: 5)
MP7 took the Man of the Match award from Channel 9 and this writer can live with it. It was he and Maloney who started the second half fightback with a more composed showing; he directed his forwards extremely well in the second half, ran off his forwards perfectly and controlled the attack with class.
He had five darts for 47 metres with three offloads and a tackle bust along with a trademark try assist to Boyd in the line to get the second half going. He works as well with his second rowers in attack as any half in the game and is mixing it up by dumping off behind the double decoy play the Roosters deploy or choosing to hit one of the decoys at the last minute.
How he bounced back from the shit he copped following Origin needs to be applauded.
5. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (LW: 7)
It’s worth another look, no?
He’s not ranked fifth because of that step, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. He’s ranked so high because of his workload: he gets involved and isn’t afraid of the tough stuff up the middle.
Against the Panthers he had 14 runs for 141 metres with six tackle busts — one of which was the beauty best seen over and over again above — and was even forced to make four tackles in this one.
He’s more than likely set to rise following the news that Anthony Minichiello is out for up to three weeks, with the Prince of Prance set to take the number one spot over the next fortnight.
Can’t. Fucking. Wait.
6. James Maloney (LW: 9)
It’s been a while between drinks for Maloney who has been overshadowed in the playmaking ranks since Origin by MP7 and the ball-playing of Sonny Bill Williams.
But what a bust out game this was. Four line breaks, a try, three line break assists, three try assists, nine kicks for 260 metres, and six runs for 116 metres and seven for seven at goal.
Wow. That’s stuffing the stat sheet for you.
He did miss four tackles (he made 17) and gave away a penalty — he’s also a little cranky since returning from state duty and looks bound to tell a referee to go barbecue himself at some stage. Hopefully a game like this one will help him get a smile back on his face.
7. Michael Jennings (LW: 6)
Jennings was “quiet” with just seven tackle busts, a line break and nine runs for 74 metres against his former club. He also missed his eleventh and twelfth tackles of the year.
That snickering you hear is Ivan Cleary saying “I told you so”.
The Panthers went down his side of the field for their first try and it’s one of the few times this year that part of Roosters’ territory has been crossed this year — most tries are coming on the other end of the field. But if any club had a centre who put up those stats and called it quiet, they’d be more than stoked with the result.
Well, unless you’re Penrith apparently.
8. Luke O’Donnell (LW: 8)
The ripped old fucker was again huge with 16 runs for 135 metres and 14 tackles in 45 minutes of action.
That’s pretty much all you can say. He’s getting shit done, taking a shower and heading home. So, yeah.
9. Sam Moa (LW: NR)
Sam Moa from Tonga has returned to his early-season best in the past three matches. He scored two tries in the two games prior to the Panthers bout, and at Penrith he had 12 runs for 123 metres and a deft pass for a near-line break by Mini in the first half.
Why anyone would tackle him is beyond this writer, because that hit would sting like hell.
10. Mitch Aubusson (LW: NR)
It’s a reassuring sign to know that if Sonny Bill’s offload, running and passing game is unavailable, the Roosters can simply insert Mitch Aubusson’s best-in-class hole-running straight into his spot and they won’t miss a beat.
Against the Panthers Aubo had 10 runs for 80 metres and defensively he made 18 tackles without a miss in 80 minutes.
He’s just a really, really good player: a modern-day Chris Flannery who can fill gaps from the back row to the halves and centres.
Isaac Liu, who is almost about to break into the top 10 with three straight solid-to-good showings off the bench in a row; and Shaun Kenny-Dowall, who threw one pass a mile forward but had seven tackle busts, a try assist, 16 runs for 133 metres and 11 tackles without a miss.