This week in Big League magazine...
All 16 NRL teams have now played one third of their regular season games but no team has been more impressive to me than the Sydney Roosters.
When the season began we were all fascinated to see whether four superstars could be absorbed into one team with no ill effects to cohesion. But while they have each contributed significantly to the side’s upturn, it has been the ability of coach Trent Robinson to get them to buy into the team ethos that has been the cornerstone of their resurgence.
Consider these most basic statistics from the Roosters’ 2012 campaign to their start to 2013: Last year as they finished the season in 13th position the Roosters scored an average of 19.2 points per game and conceded 26.1. In the space of one off-season they have transformed in extraordinary fashion into a team that scores 26 points each week while conceding just 10.2 – the best in the league. Since going down 28-10 to South Sydney in Round 1, the Roosters’ record at Allianz Stadium is five wins, no losses with a for-and-against that reads 160-16.
That is an astonishing tunraround.
Consider that in the team in Round 1 that took the field against the Rabbitohs, five had never before lined up in the same rugby league team, let alone had years to hone combinations in pursuit of perfection.
They’re still far from perfect but they have hit stride faster than any so-called experts could have predicted. Indeed, a quick scan of our Season Preview shows only one of the rugby league journalists we polled believed the Roosters were made of top four material. Take your bow Mr Todd Balym from Brisbane’s Courier-Mail.
But the big tests now await, and how the Roosters handle the next eight weeks will determine whether we are looking at an incredible premiership assault or a team that still needs time to become great.
There are few tougher assignments than the battle-hardened Sea Eagles at Brookie to be followed by a trip to Townsville to face and then back home to throw the welcome mat out for the Melbourne Storm.
The Origin period then kicks into gear and with Mitchell Pearce, James Maloney and Michael Jennings all in the forefront of Blues selectors’ minds we are soon going to discover what this Roosters team is truly made of.
It’s time we put a stop to captains – and indeed players – questioning every decision made by referees before our players start treating officials the way they do in the round ball game. Some of the most mild-mannered men off the field have started to talk to the men in the middle in a condescending fashion and it is setting a poor example.
And the bad news, guys, is that it doesn’t matter whether you thought the opposition touched it, knocked it out, hit your man high or stepped into touch, the men holding the whistle hold the only opinions that count. May as well save your breath.