Off-season signings: the story… so far. What of LOD and Mini?

Jake Jarmel is back — kind of.

I’ve been abroad since mid-October, trying to find myself as well as come down from that incredible night on October 6th.

Through excessive drinking and the workload that welcomed me at my day job, I am struggling to remember what actually happened that night.

Shades of Jenko diving miraculously come to mind, as does an around-the-corner offload from one of the greats, but the mind is fuzzy a little over a month and a half since the greatest game this writer has ever witnessed and since forgotten.

He may have to purchase the DVD despite having watched the game 10 times on NRL.com and at the Sydney Roosters website, because through a copious amount of Angkor beers this kid has forgotten it all.

And during this less-than-stellar stupor, when yours truly went Rob Ford all through Asia, 26 Rounds went on hiatus. Until now. Yours truly missed several key signings — yet he also realised that two key signings remained unsigned.

Anthony Minichiello — on tour with the Italian Rugby League team at the world cup — and Luke O’Donnell, who injured his hammy in the GF, are still yet to be signed with Christmas approaching.

UNSIGNED

Anthony Minichiello, fullback/winger

It seems a fait accompli that the Roosters will sign the Italian Jesus. There remains a wing spot open — assuming Roger Tuivasa-Sheck takes the reins at fullback — and while the Roosters have been active in signing young wingers, it would be odd to not re-sign the captain of the club after they won the Grand Final.

He’s lost a step and then some, but remains one of the game’s best positionally and under the high ball. The wing makes sense for him at this stage of his career: he rarely breaks the line from fullback and his ball-playing skills have eroded with his speed.

But defensively he makes a shit-ton of sense out on the right wing where he started his career. The right side was the only weakness teams regularly exploited out wide in 2013 with Shaun Kenny-Dowall and the neophyte RTS struggling on occasion to make the correct read. With Mini out there, it would serve to further protect SKD inside him.

While SKD deserves a fuckload of credit for improving his defence throughout the year, it can’t hurt to have an experienced fullback and brilliant defensive playcaller outside him.

In short: the Roosters will probably re-sign Mini. With the cap increase and the release throughout the year of Lama Tasi, Martin Kennedy and the expected release of Nafe Seluini, there is room to do so — unless they re-sign this guy.

Luke O’Donnell, Front Row Forward

The Sharks have reportedly chased hard for LOD — and rightly so, given he was a key forward in the Roosters’ march to the title. He turned back the clock in a vintage year for the Tricoulours, adapting his game to the front row and making this writer eat a massive slice of humble pie.

But according to an article in the Telegraph, he’s reportedly shunned that offer to chase a two-year deal at the Roosters. Nothing has been announced yet, and given the source is the Telegraph it’s just as likely to be bullshit as truth.

The Roosters have Kane Evans and Dylan Napa champing at the bit for first grade, and should the Roosters delay their progression another year in order to sign LOD you could essentially say goodbye to Evans — who it was rumoured was set to leave the Chooks due to his frustration at not getting a run at all in firsts in 2013.

With those two youngsters and the signing of the French dude (below), someone is going to miss out on first grade.

If Cronulla continue to make a play for the 33-year-old O’Donnell they will get him — especially considering the retirement of Ben Ross — because there is no way a player with the pride of Luke O’Donnell will want to wallow away in reserves in front of 500 people at Newtown.

And the same can be said of the French dude, who probably didn’t think he’d have to trade in the baguettes of Catalans for the Five Star Kebabs of King street.

SIGNED

Remi Casty, Front Row Forward

Signed from Catalans Dragons

The signing of Remi, along with the expected rise to the top grade of Evans and the continued development of Napa — who can play anywhere in the forwards — makes the re-signing of Luke O’Donnell highly unlikely, from both a salary cap perspective and a playing time perspective.

For one, how do you play all four off the bench when you consider Guerra/Aubusson and Mortimer have two of the spots sewn up?

From the small amount of footage I’ve seen of Casty — and having missed his World Cup exploits while I was overseas — he can be something of a Sam Burgess-lite. He’s got some toe, is athletic and agile for someone his size and has some skills handling the ball. 

If that ball-handling is reserved for those not encased in a scrote ala chief Burgii, then the Roosters are onto a winner with the Frenchman, who will be reunited with former coach Trent Robinson.

But with that winner comes a loser, and Luke O’Donnell will, I believe, unfortunately feel the squeeze. If the Roosters have one spot left, it seems likely that spot will go to the Italian Jesus for that open wing spot.

Jackson Hastings, Half/Hooker/Fullback

Signed from Dragons

It looked like the son of Kevin would have to bide his time with the Roosters in the Holden Cup, what with him being just 17 and all.

But in an interview with the Telegraph over the offseason, Coach Robbo declared he had high hopes for the youngster who can essentially play anywhere in the spine and excel.

It seems unlikely given his age that he’d get a run so soon, but remember that Mitch Pearce got his start at the age of 17, and this kid is predicted to be even better.

Could he get a run in the Nines? Hmmm…

In all likelihood he won’t get a start this year unless Pearce and Maloney both nab origin spots, forcing Daniel Mortimer into the halves with the utility bench spot open for either Hastings or another signing made during the offseason (see below), but when he does get a run — be it 2014 or 2015 — experts are warning he will be hard to drop back to reserves from there.

He can kick goals, he can run the damn thing, can pass the ball like a boss and kick the living shit out of it, as well as having a genuine footy brain.

Plus, he loves the club thanks to his dad, claiming in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph that he knocked back four clubs to follow in his father’s footsteps

I’m quite prepared to get in early every game this year just to watch the son of a club legend tear it up for the NYC Roosters. Tik tik boom.

Heath L’Estrange, Hooker

Signed from Bradford Bulls

Remember Heath? Yeah, the former Australian schoolboy who is just 5’9″ and who started his career with the Roosters before going on to win a Grand Final with the Manly Sea Eagles and then moving to Bradford?

Well, he’s back!

Granted, he won’t get much game time, if any — he’ll be used primarily as the backup to the backup (Morts) during Origin, but this writer has always had a soft spot for Heath. He’s tough, has a good footy head on those miniature shoulders and can be effective off the bench as a change-of-pace hooker. He always gives good service and now Jake Friend has a rival for both the title of the NRL’s smallest hooker and the Roosters’ annual limbo contest.

Plus, his nickname is “Stranger”. For those unaware of what a “stranger” is, it’s when you deliberately make your left hand fall asleep by sitting on it, so as to be able to “pleasure ones self” with a numb hand, making it feel like someone else is doing it.

It’s true, ask Dave Chappelle.

Curtis Naughton, Fullback

Signed from Bradford Bulls

In what many experts are declaring a coup, the Roosters signed 18-year-old Bradford product Naughton, who said he left the English club because he should have been playing more Super league by now.

According to an article on News:

“Playing in Australia has always been my goal,” Naughton said. 

“So while I’d signed with the Bulls for three years, when all the stuff started happening I thought to myself ‘OK, let’s go now’.”

Asked what that “stuff” was, the young gun courted by no less than six NRL clubs continued: “I wasn’t getting played in first grade when I should’ve been.

“They (the coaching staff) had signed me to be part of the full-time squad. But why? They weren’t playing me. 

“I didn’t know why last year and I still don’t know because no one ever told me. Plus being stuck in the Academy team, which is like an under 19s competition, it just didn’t feel like my game was improving. 

“So I left. I’ll be playing in the Holden Cup next year which I’m really looking forward to because it will be a real step up.

“And from there, I just want to keep improving. I’ve played a game in the English Super League and my goal is definitely the NRL.” 

He might be in for a rude shock if he expects to play NRL any time soon, more likely to bide his time in the NYC for a couple of years given the players that are before him in the pecking order. But the confidence is a good sign, as long as it isn’t misplaced in a Cheyse Blair kinda way.

But playing a game in first grade for Bradford when he’s barely old enough to drink is a good enough sign for this writer that the kid has talent.

Jonathon Reuben, Winger

Singed from the Canberra Raiders

The young flyer is set to graduate from Holden Cup this year to NSW Cup, and with Henare Wells still unsigned, may snare a spot there for the Newtown Jets.

There has been much written about the winger, who made the Holden Cup team of the Year in 2013 and scored four tries against the Roosters in the NYC in round 22 this year, along with making 221 metres, 12 tackle-breaks and four line-breaks.

The kid could be anything.

Kem Seru, Front Rower

Signed from Dragons

Who likes their front rowers 6’1″ and 120 kegs?

I sure do, and the Roosters did as well, snaring the promising prop from the Dragons after he scored two tries against them in the NYC in July last year. He has gobs — yes, GOBS — of potential just waiting to be tapped, and his size alone will make him tough to stop near the line.

The 20-year-old is no longer eligible for Holden Cup and will battle it out with Evans and Napa for a starting spot with Newtown, and may even be able to nab a regular berth if Evans or Napa play regular firsts this year.

Sio Siua Taukeiaho, winger

Singed from the Warriors

Coach Robbo said at the fans forum this year that the Roosters were short one outside back — this led to everyone claiming we were after Blake Ferguson.

Instead, the Roosters are banking on one of Reuben or Taukeiaho — and we shouldn’t foget Tautau Moga in all this — to make the leap as someone who could act as the backup to Tupou and (one would assume) Mini.

The 100-kilo winger made his debut for the Warriors in the last game of the season, running it for 70 metres with an offload and three tackles.

He was granted an early release from his contract to join the Chooks on a two-year deal.

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2 responses to “Off-season signings: the story… so far. What of LOD and Mini?

  1. Pingback: Michael Oldfield, Catalans bound | 26 Rounds·

  2. Pingback: Hitchin’ a ride outta Bondi: an off-season summary | 26 Rounds·

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