Twenty-six rounds are now up, and this is the final instalment of the Weekly Sydney Roosters player rankings for the year — or is it?
As mentioned in one of our previous rankings, all the rankings will be tallied per player, per week, and given a score for each “ranking” i.e. ranked one, you get a point for that week, ranked two you get two points and so on, all the way to a Not Ranked (NR) which gets a score of 11. The player with the lowest average score will be named the “26 Rounder” as the Roosters’ most valuable player in 2013.
What a foolproof system. It means players injured or suspended are accounted for, although they will score an 11 for each week they were out, ensuring we get the most consistent player over the 26 Rounds. But it doesn’t mean those who missed weeks cannot win; after all, if Jared Waerea-Hargreaves scored five straight weeks at the top, for instance, that would mean his average score with those weeks and his five-game suspension would average out to 5.5. I think. Therefore, he can still take the prize.
Fucking brilliant system.
But perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves here at the 26 Rounds offices. We still have a week to rank players, and after one of the club’s five-greatest performances ever there should be some movement. And number one should surprise no-one.
1. Sonny Bill Williams (LW: 3)
There really isn’t much this guy can’t do when he is on and focused. Thankfully, that usually happens in the big games.
He did it against the Bulldogs in what have been two of his best games of the year; he played five-eighth against the Sea Eagles and was the best on the field; and he topped all three of those games combined with a memorable effort in one of the club’s greatest ever regular-season victories.
He was bumped off early for Greg Inglis’ opener but did not put a foot wrong the rest of the match. He nearly made breaks every time he touched it, using late footwork at the line to wreak havoc on a dishevelled South Sydney defence. He diffused three in-goal kicks and carted the ball out off the restart, and put one huge hit on Chris McQueen.
He broke the line and threw a beautiful no-look pass to Mitchell Pearce for the game-sealer and carried this team all game. He put away the fancy stuff and got dirty in a game when they needed him to. He had 18 runs for 214 metres, with six tackle busts, three offloads, a line break, a try assist and 11 tackles defending out in the centres.
If this is his first and last season with the Roosters, it truly has been a privilege having watched this guy for 26 rounds — and we may have a few more games left if he keeps playing like this.
2. James Maloney (LW: 5)
Jeez, the BBQ was not far behind SBW for player of the game, which is truly saying something. He copped a well-documented poke in the eye but came out in the second half and dominated, making this writer want to barbecue alone post-haste.
He got the Roosters back into the game in the first half off a deep angled run through some piss-weak defence out right, and broke the game open with a break in the second half and scored again on the ensuing set with a tough try reaching out. He was also the chief kicker, repeatedly finding space to the tune of 311 metres off nine reefs.
All up he had six runs for 105 metres with eight tackle busts, two tries, three line breaks and nine kicks for 311 metres — but just as impressive was his defence.
In the first half he made a copybook one-on-one tackle witha great rushing read on Adam Reynolds who was in attacking range, dislodging the ball and letting the Roosters off the hook. He made 18 tackles all up with just the four misses — a huge improvement on the nine he had against the Titans a week earlier.
The club’s premiership chances could very well come down to how Jimmy defends, and if he’s missing just four you can live with it. He knows how to read and his tackle has good form, but he’s built like a wet ciggie and can be bumped off.
He needs to be committed to it. But with the big games around the corner he won’t lack motivation.
3. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (LW: 2)
He may have been the subject of scrutiny for the raised forearm to McQueen’s throat and some extra attention from the chief strain of Burgii, but the big fella led from the front foot and actually came close to scoring on the play that ultimately led to a one match suspension.
He’s been among the Roosters’ best all year and Friday was no exception, leading a much improved defensive attitude for his team and carting the ball forward without fear: he had 13 hitups for 119 metres with three offloads — which 26 Rounds identified as a key indicator for beating the Bunnies in the preview — and three tackle busts, as well as 30 tackles with three misses. He also had two errors and the aforementioned penalty, but the whole club had a case of the dropsies, completing just 66 per cent of their sets and committing 14 errors.
But typifying his aggression was when, immediately after the extra curry The Burge gave him, he went straight up on the ensuing set and took his aggressor to the floor in a big hit. Fuck yeah.
4. Jake Friend (LW: 1)
Jakey continues to get the plaudits and is now among the smartest players in the game. He blew off MP7 to take it blind on the last against a weak right side defence having seen the overlap, sending Aidan Guerra over. He also kicked it in the second half on an early tackle in one set and had Greg Inglis retreat into his in-goal to regather, and outpointed his opposite when he was on the field.
He has a more varied game than Issac Luke with his kicking game and exquisite service from dummy half — and while Luke has it all over Friend with his running game (usually — Luke only ran it twice on Friday) Friend is the more creative player before the line.
In all he had eight runs for 68 metres in perhaps his best running game of the year –again benefitting immensely from the JWH offload — while adding two tackle busts. For the record, his kick went 68 metres.
Defensively he was strong once again with 41 tackles and a solitary miss, and there isn’t a player this writer trusts more than Friend to make the right call. He’s been faultless after a quiet start to the year when fans were calling for Daniel Mortimer to get more time at hooker.
5. Michael Jennings (LW: 7)
What a season for the centre. Rubbished by his former club as overpaid and under-performing, they let him go to the Roosters and are still paying a portion of his contract.
But one man’s trash is another’s treasure, and this guy has been a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow this year.
Against the Rabbitohs he did a little bit of everything with nine runs for 86 metres, a tackle bust and a line break — although the ball almost went exclusively right as the Roosters targeted the Merritt-Goodwin side of the field.
But defensively again he got his shit done with 11 tackles — three of them one-on-one with juts one miss. He ends the season averaging less than one missed tackle a game after averaging 1.8 misses last season.
That’s gold, Jerry.
6. Mitchell Pearce (LW: 4)
Mitch controlled the game extremely well without dominating, and outpointed Adam Reynolds in this one. This is a halfback battle that will dominate headlines for the next five years — a given, since it’s dominated discussion for the past two.
His defence was down with five misses on the night, but he ran it five times for 46 metres and supported SBW perfectly for the game’s final try. His dumpback for the BBQ was excellent and enabled Jimmy to break through off an angle, and he had a hand in Jimmy’s second — although both were more the five-eighth’s doing than his.
He left a lot of the kicking to Maloney as well, with just five kicks for 120 metres and one out on the full near the end. It certainly wasn’t his best game statistically but his control of the forwards was top shelf, repeatedly getting them into position to make the extra metres through half-gaps.
7. Sam Moa (LW: 10)
I’m not sure if you can get the Sam Moa happy meal at Macca’s, but he sure is one of the best chook nuggets going around.
Yes, that analogy was dogshit, trying to compare Moa’s nuggetty frame to an actual nugget. But you know what isn’t dogshit? Moa’s game.
He’s built like a choad — as long as he is wide — but my God he’s the last bloke you’d want to tackle. He is just relentless and plays at one speed, and it was exactly what the Roosters needed heading into 2013. Fitzgibbon needs to be praised for bringing him in.
Against Souths he had 11 hitups for 115 metres with two tackle busts, 19 tackles and three misses. No frills front row play provides the yang to SBW’s electric yin, and the one thing you can say about Moa is “what you see is what you get”. And Roosters fans have loved what they’ve seen of Moa.
8. Anthony Minichiello (LW: 9)
He missed the grubber through for the Dylan Walker no-try — which could have changed the game — as he was up in the line, but many fullbacks would be hard-pressed to stop that.
Because otherwise Mini was great positionally and his chase of a flying Nathan Merritt was the stuff of legend. He timed his run to perfection and left the Bunnies’ winger with no choice but to back himself against the old sage:
He’s back to attacking the ball on kick returns and did exceptionally well running onto the ball with Reynolds and Sutton misfiring. He had 14 runs for 107 metres with three tackle busts, three tackles and a one-one-one grab that saved the game.
9. Dylan Napa (LW: NR)
Speaking of tackles, the big rednut took down his third scalp this season and in the process saved a try when Burgii One went for the corner and Napa came over the top, dislodging the pill and driving him into touch.
This season alone he’s taken on Paul Gallen and won, and James Graham and won. With Jared Waerea-Hargreaves out, will Napa 1) be used against Manly; and 2) take out another big scalp?
Against Souths he played the full 80 and made 32 tackles with eight runs for 50 metres. He’s incredibly raw, he’s prone to dropping the ball through enthusiasm and his tackling technique needs some work.
Well, unless he’s tackling big game, that is.
10. Shaun Kenny-Dowall (LW: NR)
SKD dropped a ball in the second half, but as mentioned above was hardly the only one to do so. And in this writer’s opinion, this was Skiddzy’s best game of the year.
He ran straight and just concentrated on eating metres all game, especially coming out of his own end. He was heavily involved, went looking for the ball and was a tough tackle all game long.
He had 16 runs for 128 metres with five tackle busts in his most involved running game of the year from the wing. Perhaps his best spot is back on the hit and swing, because he’s been very good the past two matches.