1.Boyd Cordner (LW: 2)
In what may amount to Boyd’s last game of the season, he played strong enough in a team which didn’t have any real momentum to climb to the top of the rankings for the first time.
It’s just a shame that Roosters fans might not get a chance to see play him again this year, because his play since Origin has elevated his standing in the second-row ranks to among the top in the NRL.
Sure, he had a few drops in this one and sure, he missed a tackle, but he again cracked the 100 metre mark (118 off 14 runs) and contributed 14 tackles for the Roosters before being carried off with an ankle injury that required surgery, ruling him out for between 6-10 weeks.
Nothing makes this writer sadder than watching the rapid rise of this young phenom being cut down in his first game as captain and just before he was due to make his first finals series. While the Roosters have proven they can win without SBW, the loss of Boyd might be more critical to the team’s success as he does the little things necessary to win the game; little things like giving support following errors, or scrapping for loose balls — and no, not ones encased in a scrotum.
The Roosters will miss those little thing he brings, things that no-one in the depth chart replicates.
2. Jake Friend (LW: 1)
Friendy did nothing in the Raiders game to deserve a drop in the rankings. He made three runs for 30 metres and tackled his toosh off once again, making 39 tackles in 57 minutes of game time.
But perhaps his play has spoiled us in recent weeks, and he didn’t have the same influence in this game as he had in previous outings.
That is not to say he played poorly, by any stretch. He chose good options and his service was again solid for the most part out of dummy half.
We’re just used to more now. And a game like this in 2012 would have been a great showing from the rake. But in 2013 Friendy has surprised us by spoiling us, and games like this aren’t the norm anymore: they’re the exception. I hope.
3. Mitchell Pearce (LW: 4)
MP7 again had a strong showing, and his interplay with the BBQ is a sight to behold in recent weeks. Both halves are taking turns picking apart a defence, and Mitch has taken to leading this team around while leaving the flashy plays for flashier players.
His running game fell off a bit in this one as the Roosters were flat-out dominated by the Raiders’ pack, making just eight metres off one run, while his kicking game was a bit off both short and long.
But his pass to Jenko on the line started the ball rolling in the second half and he did enough to climb a bit in the rankings. He is playing without that sense of pressure hanging over him; he’s just running the sets and doing what needs to be done.
4. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (LW:3)
The big fella was a little down on workrate in this game, and while he didn’t give away any penalties for a change he also didn’t make the metres he normally does, continuing a bit of a worrying trend of late. His energy levels seem a bit down after returning explosively from his five-week secondment on the sidelines.
He made 102 metres off 13 runs against the Raiders, not a bad outing by any stretch, but he’s sliding down the rankings purely because his workrate is down recently. Last week he had 15 runs and the week before he had just 12. And the metres aren’t coming easily anymore for him, nor is the offload that made him such a weapon earlier in the year.
Maybe a week’s rest if the minor premiership is sewn up would do him the world of good, because we need a fresh Jared heading into the big clashes.
5. James Maloney (LW: 6)
Even when the BBQ misses a tackle he makes it worthwhile.
He threw Fergo’s boot into the stand in a play of poor sportsmanship — if that was Chris Sandow who threw the boot away we’d all be fuming, admit it — but because it was Maloney, the larrikin who got caught by his mum having a bat, we find it funny. And it bloody was.
In an age where people throw street signs through cars, get charged with assault and stick hands up bums and around testicles, throwing a souvenir into the crowd is a refreshing change. And the Roosters fans threw it straight back, because they’re nice.
Besides, everyone was too distracted by the BBQ’s attacking plays to pay much attention to it.
His threw an absolute pearler of a cutout to Daniel Tupou for the team’s last try following a dominant start when he scored off an intercept, kicked perfectly for a tapback to Tupou for Jennings’ first, and passed through the hands quickly for SKD’s try.
Defensively he had his worst game of the year, but I guess the Roosters had their fifth-worst outing of the season so we can excuse him a little bit, so good was his attacking play. But maybe he should go to the School of Burgess and learn how to get a grip.
6. Michael Jennings (LW: 7)
Jenko’s missed tackles are starting to climb towards the end of a tough season, with two more this week following two last week. But his attack is what made him stand out against the Raiders.
He was perfectly placed for Tupou’s tapback to score, and ran the ideal angle into a hole off an MP7 spiral to score his second. He only made 38 metres off seven runs but also had three tackle busts and remains a threat to do something freakish every time he touches it.
He dropped the ball twice and needs to get more involved as sometimes the ball doesn’t go his way, but the mere threat of him out wide is sometimes enough of a question for a defence that never knows which player MP7 or Maloney will hit with a pass that he’s done enough simply by being out there.
It’s a team sport, after all.
7. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (LW: 5)
We expected the world from the kid as soon as he made the shift to the number 1 jersey, and we all — this writer included — forgot that fullback remains one of the harder roles to play, even for someone returning to the position he played when he was younger. This was essentially The Sheck’s first game of NRL at the back, save for spot minutes here and there, and for a first showing he looked nervous but did OK.
He made just 81 metres off 13 runs and his involvement was well down on recent weeks, even though he’s been a winger all year. He missed three tackles and positionally was found out with a few well-placed bombs. The Shtep was not given the room to break out and his opposite, Anthony Milford, outshone him on the day.
He’ll pick all this stuff back up in due course, and his major strength will be in running at holes — but it will take some time to get used to the plays the Roosters run from the middle of the field.
However, he did manage to chase down Ferguson and put him into touch with the line begging, providing the lone defensive highlight of the night for a team that struggled.
8. Sam Moa (LW: 9)
Victa started following the late withdrawal of Luke O’Donnell, and while he tried his guts out he was part of a thoroughly dominated front row for the Chooks. He had 11 runs for 90 metres and made 26 tackles, but missed three.
He rises though because you can never doubt he’s trying to do his job — he never looks lazy or slow out there, and this may have just been an off game for him. Heck, everyone else was off in this one too.
9. Mitch Aubusson (LW: 10)
He has great hands and threw a lovely quick pass for SKD’s try, and defensively was solid enough save for being part of the inability to tackle Ferguson for his second try. With Boyd gone, Aubo will most likely move to the left side second row where he is far more comfortable, once Mini returns of course.
10. Shaun Kenny-Dowall (LW:NR)
The backpacker gets a start in the rankings for the first time this year following three straight weeks of solid footy. He scored a try and was heavily involved running the pill, leading the team with 15 runs for 102 metres with four tackle busts and a line break.
He missed just his third tackle during the team’s current winning streak, but in this writer’s humble opinion has earned a spot in the top 10 at long last.
He makes me nervous under a high ball, or in fact when any ball comes near him, but I’m getting used to those feelings of nerves, kinda like getting used to flying with vertigo.
Isaac Liu, who this writer really struggled to leave out and who almost took SKD’s spot in the rankings following some great go-forward in just 35 minutes of action (seven runs, 77 metres and 16 tackles without a miss) but missed the cut only barely; and Daniel Tupou, scored a terrific winger’s try and used his height to great effect for another.