1. James Maloney (LW: 4)
The BBQ made the number one spot his own earlier in the year, and his Origin experience took enough out of his that he never really threatened to get back, falling as far as eighth in the rankings.
But his recent form has been undeniable.
Against the Tigers in the second half he was unbelievable in a virtuoso second half performance which included two try assists and a “hockey assist” (the pass that led to the try assist) when he put rankings débutante Isaac Liu through a great hole off an inside ball. His kicking game was varied, even in the first half when he chipped a few times to the wings with the line open, forcing two repeat sets. He repeated that dose in the second half when his perfect kick sat up just enough for Jenko’s first try.
His running game was on, and while he missed five tackles his attack is more than making up for that part of his game. In all he had 13 tackles, six runs for 79 metres, two try assists, two tackle busts, a line break, a line break assist, three errors (all in the first half) and five kicks for 136 metres.
Oh, and he slotted 10 for 10 from all angles on conversions — seven of them in the second half.
2. Mitchell Pearce (LW: 3)
Mitch is controlling games — or at least second halves — as well as any halfback in the competition, perhaps better and more consistently since Origin. He celebrated the captaincy and 15 games with two tries and some superb bombs to the wings.
Just watch how well he aims these kicks: every time, almost without fault, he is getting them just deep enough that if they are diffused the player is tackled a metre out, but not so deep that the team gets a restart from the 20 from a catch in-goal.
It means that the Roosters are winning the field position more often than not, and it nullifies the lack of repeat sets as the defence is strong enough that it can force an error.
There was an interesting stat thrown out there by the Fox Sports team: the Roosters score once every 7.8 tackles inside the opposition 20, which just shows you how irrelevant it is that the Chooks never get the ball back. they are so damn efficient on the line that a repeat set seems like an admission of defeat to the defence.
He ran it five times for 70 metres, with an offload, a line break, a line break assist, eight tackles and a rare five misses, with 10 kicks for 239 metres. his defence has slipped but he’s more than capable, as we know, of fixing that part of his game.
3. Jake Friend (LW: 2)
Jake scored the first try, tackled his butt off, provided great service and left the game in his captaincy debut for good in the 32nd minute, leaving the heavy lifting for Daniel Mortimer with the game well out of reach.
It was the perfect game to give the tyro a rest, and during his short time on the field against the Tigers he still got work done. He had 14 tackles, two tackle busts, a line break and 40 touches in his shortest outing in many a season.
He’s the one guy on this team I completely trust now — he’s like my doctor, only totally competent.
4. Sonny Bill Williams (LW: NR — Suspended)
Ohhhh — SONNY — BillWill — yams.
Against the Tigers he got the early rest we predicted, but not after a first half in which he did all he could to spark a drowsy club out of its slumber.
Call me a dick for favouring the spectacular play over the subtleties of rugby league, but that offload is as special as it gets and I’d be more than happy to pay $1m-plus to see it for another 26-30 rounds.
The try he scored against the Tigers only he could score, and it’s a try he’s already scored on four separate occasions this year. Near the line he reminds this writer of the impact Freddy once had — not in guile, but in sheer size and leg power.
He settled for the pass before the line too often in the first half but that’s a case of nit-picking a spectacular game from the returning superstar. He ran it 17 times for 145 metres, with five tackle busts, three offloads, a line break and 15 tackles wit just two misses.
This week, he gets to take on Beau Ryan, he of the ridiculous SBTV skits, and it’s going to be hilarious watching the big fella have eyes for a winger.
5. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (LW: 4)
Jared’s pep was back in his step, especially out of marker, and its a good sign heading into a big test versus the Sharks this week. but more importantly, he got the rest he needed, playing just 29 minutes. In that time he had nine runs for 88 metres with a couple of offloads and 14 tackles.
He’ll be well rested for next week, and they’ll need him at his best considering Luke O’Donnell might be out.
6. Michael Jennings (LW: 5)
How this guy fell into the Roosters laps is something we should all sit down and be thankful for. In fact, I’ll go as far to say we should host Penrith for Australia’s first ever Thanksgiving dinner, to be held the day after the Grand Final.
He’s completed the Roosters’ attack and taken his game up a notch since Origin. He’s not scoring through line breaks all the time; he’s scoring through guile, strength and effort as epitomised by his first try when he reached out and grounded the ball around James Tedesco before it went dead.
He had his worst defensive game of the year with a season-high three misses but he did complete 14, with two one-on-ones. He ran the ball whenever he had the chance, with 14 for 154 metres with two tackle busts and two tries, bringing his tally this year to 14, equal fourth in the NRL.
7. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (LW: 6)
Yeah. That line break happened.
Roger is still learning the nuances of full back play — positional play, when to support and how to read a defence from the back at NRL level — but that line break showed the world why everyone has been waiting for this kid to take the reins at the back. he swerved left, right, left and straightened, carving the Tigers up without even needing to break out that Shtep of his.
He had 16 runs for 179 metres with a line break, seven tackle busts and two offloads, and threw a beautiful short ball off the back of the scrum to a steaming Daniel Tupou, who broke through to score. He dropped one ball backwards and looks shakier than Mini normally does, but nerves and inexperience are likely the reasons for it.
He had much more of an impact in this game than he did a week earlier and will get another chance against far better opposition this week against the Sharks.
8. Mitch Aubusson (LW: 9)
Mitch had one run when you’re reminded why the Roosters re-signed him for another three years, a herky-jerky run which almost resulted in a line break against the Tigers.
He had five runs for 64 metres in this one yet only received it seven times in an 80-minute effort. This will change as the games get grittier and less open, and the Roosters spend more time on the line attacking with Aubo as the hole-runner or decoy. He had 23 tackles with a couple of misses but did what he had to do. He’s the perfect role player for this system.
9. Daniel Tupou (LW: NR)
The try he scored off the scrum showed just how fast this kid is, and the nine tackle busts showed just how strong he is. For a wiry frame he’s impossible to tackle when he’s on.
He had nine runs for 143 amazing metres and two line breaks with a try. He’s safe under the high ball and will represent NSW at some stage in his career.
10. Isaac Liu (LW: NR)
this kid impresses us more with every game, and he finally looks comfortable in the top grade. he should get more minutes against the Sharks than the 38 he received in this game with the expected LO’D suspension, which is just fine by this writer.
Against the Tigers he had 13 runs for 145 metres with a try assist and a line break off a Maloney insider, an offload, 15 tackles and no missed tackles, errors or penalties. The big youngster has a huge future, reminding this writer of a taller Anthony Tupou — because we are starting to see glimpses of a potentially lethal offload.
Daniel Mortimer, who played the majority of the minutes at hooker, scored two tries and controlled the game well in the second half; Sam Moa, who bumped off everyone in front of him; and Luke O’Donnell, who would have ranked after running for 147 metres off 14 runs, but he may have hurt his team with that brain snap which could rule him out for the rest of the regular season.