Warrick D. Nicolson
It is often said you cannot ‘buy a premiership’ but if you've been following how successful the Sydney Roosters have been this season - a smart buying plan certainly helps your chances.
First the Roosters picked up James Maloney to replace Braith Anasta as Mitchell Pearce’s partner in the halves for 2013, then they secured the services of a certain dual code superstar called Sonny Bill Williams and finally during this pre-season they swooped on former Penrith centre Michael Jennings.
Those three big name signings weren't the only astute additions handed to incoming coach Trent Robinson, with veteran props Sam Moa and Luke O’Donnell also added to the mix in a recruitment drive that had many good judges thinking the Roosters would rocket into playoff contention in 2013 after finishing 13th last season.
Now 20 rounds into this campaign, the beefed-up Sydney Roosters are sitting pretty in 2nd spot with 14 wins, just two points behind the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the Minor Premiership race with six games to play.
As recruitment drives go - it is as good as any in recent memory but these Roosters will want more than a great regular season as the end result of the buying spree.
Their opponents in Round 21 are the 10th placed Penrith Panthers - Jennings’ club until January this year - at Centrebet Stadium on Friday night.
Jennings has been dynamic for the Roosters in 2013 - scoring 12 tries in 17 games with 11 line breaks and 54 tackle breaks, and his partnership with Daniel Tupou on the left edge for Sydney is going to give Dean Whare and David Simmons plenty of headaches.
Although Sonny Bill Williams will miss the game after taking an early guilty plea for a Round 20 judiciary charge (he will miss Round 21 and 22), there are a few very good reasons to get down to the foot of the mountains on Friday.
Penrith’s strong mid-season form has given them a chance at playing meaningful September football as well, but two straight losses to the Knights and Sharks make this game with the Roosters vital to stay in the playoff race. They have 20 competition points, two points behind the 8th placed Knights on 22 and coach Ivan Cleary knows that home wins are like gold at this time of year.
The Panthers hold a three game winning streak against the Roosters at Centrebet Stadium dating back to 2009.
David Simmons has quietly put together a monster season on the wing for Penrith - his 15 tries in 18 games gives him a sniff at catching Rhys Wesser’s club record of 25 tries in a season in 2003. Wesser scored 24 tries in 23 regular season games, so in order to match the former fullback, Simmons needs nine tries in his last six games - not an impossible task given he usually scores in pairs (he has scored doubles in five games this season). In perhaps a more winnable race - Simmons is two tries behind Newcastle’s James McManus in the quest to be the Top Tryscorer for 2013.
Finally as an added bonus to the contest - the Penrith faithful and playing roster get a chance to welcome Jennings back home... so Centrebet Stadium will be the place to be 7:30pm Friday!
Jim Beam Smooth Move of the Week
Did you know David Nofoauluma was in the circus?
Neither did we... until we saw this acrobatic effort on Monday night:
Although Nofoaluma’s amazing try couldn't stop Manly from running over the Tigers in the end 36-18, it gave us all another great moment for the end of season highlight reel.