1. Jake Friend (LW: 2)
Lil’ Him got work in against the Titans, and continues his rise up the rankings — in the NRL as well as in the weekly Roosters rankings.
He didn’t give away a penalty, didn’t drop the ball, and did enough to climb back to the top.
He had 43 tackles, four runs for 33 metres with two tackle busts and a 29 metre kick, and explouted poor marker play when he could. He was severely disadvantaged by a poor 10 metres from the referees but did all he could with superb service out of dummy half all game. At this stage of his development he’s behind Cam Smith, Robbie Farah and a shade behind Isaac Luke, yet he’s the youngest of the quartet.
The future is bright for this one, and the present is pretty darned good.
2. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (LW: 4)
JWH was co-Roosters man of the match with Mini against the Titans for good reason — did anyone watch what he did to try to spark this club?
He was incredible and back to that form which had him as the form prop of the competition through the middle of the year. He played the most minutes he’s played all year (65) and looked positively fucked by the end of it, having completed 49 tackles (two of them one-on-one) and had 17 runs for 147 metres with two offloads, two tackle busts, no errors and no penalties.
If the Roosters are to snap out of this funk, they could do worse than follow this guy’s lead if he manages to keep play like this up.
3. Sonny Bill Williams (LW: 5)
This writer pointed out in the match report that “in three of [SBW’s] past four halves he’s been well below his best”. Please note that the operative word there is “his”. Because compared to any other second rower his effort was incredible, especially in the second half.
He had 18 runs for 132 metres with a try assist, a tackle bust, five offloads, 32 tackles and two kicks — one of which may have been awful but heck, at least he was trying something to spark the club.
It’s worth noting that 12 of his runs and two of his errors came in the second half, and those errors are more than understandable: one was the intercept on the last play, another was on an offload that slipped from his hand as he attempted to spark the attack in the second phase.
I was critical of him in the same way people criticise Kobe Bryant when he shoots 13-for-30: we simply hold these guys, rightly or wrongly, to a higher standard than others thanks to what they’ve done in the past and what we know they’re capable of. The truth is that only a select few players can hit the shots Kobe Bryant can, and only a select few players — if any, to be honest — can have a game like the one SBW had in the second half against the Titans.
4. Mitchell Pearce (LW: 3)
Mitch didn’t get a chance to do much with the ball but still had a hand in a few neat touches, and his try reminded this writer of a Sonny Bill effort when he flipped over and grounded the ball against the odds in the first half to get the Roosters back square. He also threw a lovely ball to the other Mitch for the second-rower to break away and get the club on the board.
His kicking game wasn’t superb but credit the Gold Coast wingers and a short 10 metres which had the Titans up in his grill all game.
All up he had a try, a try assist, a line break assist, two tackle busts, 23 tackles, no errors and no penalties. The future captain was solid but not spectacular, which you can say pretty much about everyone else at the Bondi club on Sunday.
5. James Maloney (LW: 1)
Jimmy’s defence fell off a cliff in this one, with a season high nine — yes, nine — missed tackles and some poor reads including one on Brad Takairangi which led to the former Rooster’s try that put the Titans back in front for good.
In attack he was a little stale, with his kicks predictable and his passing just off its normal (of late) excellence, perhaps indicative of teams figuring out the attack on the left side where Jimmy has been on fire in the past month. One cut-out was tapped away and too often he went for the cutout which was read every time.
He still had a solid game on paper in attack with four runs for 54 metres, two tackle busts, a try assist and seven kicks for 197 metres. But the nine missed tackles were a worry, especially when you consider seven came in the second half alone.
I spoke about his improved his defence earlier this year when he’d improved from 5.1 missed tackles a game in 2012 to just over three a match at Origin time. In his past four matches though he’s slipped significantly with 5.5 misses a match over that stretch. It needs to improve before the Roosters face the Burgii, Hoffman and Watmough in the coming weeks.
6. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (LW: 6)
The Nightcrawler had one unhappy spill with no-one around him, but apart from that he was a beast from the wing, having a hand in everything in attack and getting more involved than any other winger does in the competition. Peep these stats if you don’t believe me: 22 runs for 189 metres, six tackle busts and four offloads. Those are Sonny Bill-esque really.
In defence he was found out early when the Titans crossed out wide after just a few minutes, having come in too far and leaving SKD as the widest man, but later he did more than his share of work for an attack which largely lacked composure and punch.
7. Michael Jennings (LW: 7)
This is the involvement we want from Jenko: 14 runs for 166 metres, five tackle busts, an offload and a line break. He had three errors against the Titans, but I doubt that would discourage his inside men from throwing him the thing.
Defensively he was good again with 18 tackles and no misses, but he was let down by Maloney’s defence out there which resulted in two tries down the left flank. If he kieeps this involvement up, and the Roosters keep getting it to him, only good things will happen, of this I am certain.
8. Daniel Tupou (LW: 8)
We have the best wingers in the comp. Yes, I said it. And it won’t be the last time I say it this year.
Against the Titans Tupou had 15 runs for 145 metres with eight tackle busts, an offload, a line break, a try and two offloads. He chews up metres like Souths fans chew crayons and has a fend which is lethal in making that extra metre or two on kick returns. He even had six tackles and despite the two errors was a handful whenever he managed to keep a hold of it.
9. Anthony Minichiello (LW: NR)
I’m going to get grief for ranking Mini, as I always do when I rank him ahead of Moa or pretty much anyone else, but I though Mini was superb positionally for the Roosters on Sunday — so superb was he that he lifted a lifeless crowd on several kick returns when he attacked the punts like it was 2005 all over again. The three weeks off may have helped him as a bit of a refresher.
He did choose a wrong option when he threw a cutout to Toops when it should have gone through the hands, he dropped an offload in the final minute which was aimed at his ankles, and he wasn’t quick enough to track down a flying Anthony Don. But I thought positionally on kicks he was outstanding against a fantastic tactical kicker in Aidan Sezer.
He had 12 runs for 102 metres with two tackle busts and an offload with seven tackles. Great effort from the returning captain.
10. Sam Moa (LW: NR)
Slammin’ Sam was put on report for a shoulder charge following a review from the referee on the tackle, but not charged. How many times have we heard this for the Roosters this year??
This rule was brought in to ensure that referees didn’t reward divers for innocuous tackles gone slightly wrong, with the penalty only to come if it’s worthy of being put on report. Clearly that wasn’t because it wasn’t charged, which means referees are just using the mechanism willy nilly. Useless law.
By the way, Moa had 13 runs for 109 metres with two tackle busts, an offload, a line break and a try with 31 tackles but four misses. And no charge this week means he’ll suit up when we most need him, against out mortal enemies.