Dan Walsh, Staff Writer, NRL.com
After some early jitters the reigning premiers have rounded the midway mark in full control of their game and, seemingly, their 2014 destiny.
Overview: Every man and his dog told us the Chooks were going to give defending a premiership title a fair old shake of the sauce bottle before a ball was kicked in 2014, and the Roosters have found out exactly why no side has done so since the Broncos in 1992-93. Their 2-4 start to the year had a touch of Eric the Eel about it, but with the likes of Sonny Bill Williams warming to the task and the unexpected availability of halves Mitch Pearce and James Maloney over the all-important Origin period, the Roosters again have the rest of the competition eyeing them as the team to beat.
They're yet to beat a full-strength, out-and-out title contender thus far, so pencil in their Round 16 trip to Brookvale to take on competition leaders Manly as a genuine litmus test for their premiership credentials.
Able to leap tall buildings and opposition wingers with ease, Daniel Tupou is one of the few Roosters who can genuinely claim to have improved on his 2013 form, no easy feat considering Toops was already a frequent flyer over the top of some of the game's premier wingmen last year. But with eight tries, better than a line break a game and an average 126 metres (up from 94 per game last season), Tupou is fast becoming the first Rooster called upon when the post-weekend highlight reels are being put together. His length-of-the-field effort against the Eels in Round 6
and aerial acrobatics in the Country v City game are just the tip of a pretty impressive iceberg for one of the most humble youngsters in the game, whose rapid rise has been capped with a much- deserved maiden sky blue jumper. Also, what's left to be said about Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's fancy feet
, other than blink and you'll miss him.
All the talk out of Roosters HQ between Rounds 4 and 6 was that the Chooks weren't performing all that badly, but three straight losses to the Sea Eagles, Bulldogs and Eels in which they averaged just over a converted try per game is ugly reading by any measure. The turps-induced trials of Pearce, and tribulations of Maloney (injury and early form) have resulted in the pair turning out for the Tri-Colours instead of the Blues, though that development could well be a blessing in disguise for both club and individual, with the potential to sting the duo back into the premiership-winning form that won them those jerseys in the first place. (Certainly they fired accordingly against the Storm last week.) Ditto the 42-10 loss to the Cowboys in Townsville, by far the Roosters' worst performance since Trent Robinson took the coaching reins 18 months ago, although that has since been followed up with resounding wins over the Bulldogs and Melbourne.Biggest Moment:
It may have come against a depleted Dogs outfit but the Chooks' 32-12 thumping of the competition leaders in Round 11
could well be the spark that sets the Roosters premiership defence afire. Sonny Bill Williams caught sight of the blue and white of his former club and promptly played the house down for the first time in 2014; Jared Waerea-Hargreaves fired up and belted young pup David Klemmer firmly into place; Mitch Pearce got his groove back after the fallout from his infamous night on the Kings Cross tiles; and the premiers got their first win over a side that played finals footy in 2013. And not for nothing, a week later it was revealed the Roosters had decided to swap lagers for lattes for the short if not long term, installing the same booze ban they had in place for the back half of last season on their way to the premiership.
Our ladder predictor exercise
has them losing just four of their remaining games finishing on 34 points which we anticipate will be on the cusp of a top-four finish.