1. James Maloney
Stats: Five runs, 36 metres, one tackle bust, one line break, one try, three try assists, nine kicks for 273 metres, 22 tackles.
It’s been a while since the BBQ was cookin’. He’s been improved over the past few weeks, but hasn’t actually finished atop the rankings at all this season. His form was down to the point where we had to remove the BBQ moniker and revert to calling him “James”.
But the hot plate was back on against the Raiders, and the cooking was good.
He destroyed the right-side defence of the Raiders with three try assists and a try of his own, picking the right option every time. He also set up a near break in the first half with another cut-out, and his ball play contributed to a horror night for Daniel Tupou’s opposite, Reece Robinson, who ended up with six missed tackles in all.
The BBQ made Robinson pay for coming in off his wing to defend Jenko, and made him pay just as bad for staying out there when he sliced through for his own try and set up another for DT with a perfect bomb, matching an athletic freak against the prone defensive jumper in the Raiders’ winger.
Welcome back, barbecuer.
2. Daniel Tupou
Stats: 14 runs, 119 metres, four tackle busts, one line break, three tries.
So this is what happens when you return from Origin, huh?
No, not the hat-trick. Shit, Merritt scores hat-tricks. And not safety under the high ball, because we know that — Origin aside — Toops is pretty safe when defusing.
It’s the appreciation for the pill, the realisation that every possession matters. And the best part of watching Daniel’s display on Saturday was his habitual diving for loose balls, his protecting of the pill when running it, and his focus in defence.
When a débutante returns from the Origin cauldron, the game seems slower to them; easier. Everything seemingly came easy to Daniel Tupou.
The hat-trick was spectacular, but the ease of his hustle was the biggest aspect he brought back from that arena, along with a faaaarkload of confidence.
3. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
Stats: 15 runs, 117 metres, two tackle busts, one offload, 22 tackles, no misses, no errors, no penalties.
Jared’s work rate early in the year wasn’t up to the standards he set last season, but it’s slowly coming back: in the past two weeks he’s averaging 14.5 runs, up from his average of 11.6 a game this year — a number that is still well short of the 13.8 average he sported last year. regardless, if he can maintain that energy and effort level, the Roosters will be fine.
He also, amazingly, hasn’t made a solitary error this year. Not one.
Sure, he’s offloading much less than last year (just 0.73 offloads a game, equal with MP7 and less than half of his 1013 average of 1.47 a game) but getting him the ball invariably will result in another tackle to follow.
4. Aidan Guerra
Stats: 11 runs, 113 metres, five tackle busts, 23 tackles.
He gave away a couple of cheap penalties but played for the first 60 minutes following one of the most bruising battles seen in rugby league history — and like Toops, he came back with an aggression and confidence that far exceeded anything he saw from the Raiders.
He was hitting with copybook, aggressive tackles and pushing the defenders back. He made the 10 metres every run, and did it with ease. He busted tackles like he was George Costanza in a fire and looked every bit an Origin player.
He’s off contract next year, and he’s played himself into a massive deal. And with the deal for Kevin Proctor falling through, Aidan shapes as the natural replacement for SBW on the right side.
5. Jake Friend
Stats: Two runs, 17 metres, 45 tackles, five one-on-one, one kick for 20 metres.
He threw a pretty horrid dummy half pass in the second half when he returned from a rare break, but other than that was excellent. He put a tremendous shot on David Shillington and his grubber down the left side nearly set up a spectacular try.
He did nothing — apart from that dodgy pass — to suggest he wasn’t ready for Origin should Cam Smith succumb to an ankle injury for Game II.
6. Sam Moa
Stats: 11 runs, 109 metres, 22 tackles.
Moa set the exact platform the Roosters needed. His and JWH’s combination again proved that when they fire, the Roosters win, and win comfortably: when both get over 10 hit-ups each, the Roosters have gone 6-0 and won by 13+ each time.
When they don’t the Roosters have gone just 1-5.
Stats don’t show everything, but they do show the responsibility for laying a platform needs to be shared between the front-row tandem.
7. Remi Casty
Stats: Six runs, 52 metres, 11 tackles.
The French fella is only playing limited minutes so far but each has been full of impact; he’s yet to miss a tackle this year and he’s averaging one run every two minutes and 51 seconds, tops at the club (albeit through just two games).
He is focussed, and that is bringing a lot to the table for the Roosters. And it doesn’t hurt that he likes to put his hand up for the grunt work.
8. Michael Jennings
Stats: 12 runs, 120 metres, one offload, two tackle busts, 17 tackles.
Of the Roosters’ three Origin reps, Jenko was bottled up the most in this one. He was used largely as the threat inside Jimmy’s cutouts to his outside man. However, he made easy metres when he did get the ball and defended well enough, despite two tries coming down his side of the field.
9. Anthony Minichiello
Stats: 10 runs, 93 metres, one offload, three tackle busts, one line break, one error.
The captain had a few spectacular bomb taking efforts, but saved his best for the break he made in the second half when the outpaced fellow geriatric Terry Campese for a sprint down the right touchline.
Defensively he was stout and had a few probing runs when needed.
10. Mitchell Pearce
Stats: Two runs, 18 metres, one tackle bust, nine kicks for 283 metres, 15 tackles.
MP7 isn’t setting the world alight by any stretch, but he’s doing what his team needs. He had a few booming kicks downfield designed for metres only when the Roosters were being swamped, alleviating pressure in the rare moment it was being applied. He still needs to work on his field goal kicking — his attempt seemed weirdly timed given the game’s flow, but it was a real-world opportunity for the Roosters to test their field goal play. They haven’t kicked one in the Robinson era, mind you.