SYDNEY ROOSTERS - 2009 Season Preview

<p>PREMIERSHIP success in 2009 will put the Roosters on par with the Storm and the Broncos as the most dominant forces of the first decade of the new millenium. </p><p> The Chooks have already made four grand finals this decade – the most of any team – but disappointingly have just one title to show for it. </p><p> While the Storm have been outstandingly consistent over past seasons they too have just the one trophy, and the Roosters can certainly lay claim to being the best team of the past 10 years if they win. </p><p> They have rebuilt well after the depression that hit the club following their last grand final appearance in 2004. </p><p> In Mitchell Pearce and Braith Anasta they have two current representative playmakers. </p><p> In Mark O’Meley, Willie Mason, Nate Myles, Lopini Paea, Setaimata Sa and Craig Fitzgibbon they have one of the game’s best forward packs. </p><p> And in Brad Fittler they have a past champion who has never been too far away from great success. </p><p> The Roosters certainly aren’t short-priced premiership favourites but in a field as close as the NRL, they have the strike-power to finish on top of more fancied competitors in 2009. </p><p> <strong>How They’ll Play It</strong></p> All teams aim to dominate in the forwards, but the Roosters will be aiming for much more than that. The Bondi big men need to destroy their opposites in the scrum on a weekly basis. </p><p> Brad Fittler will again rely heavily on the creativity of Mitchell Pearce and Braith Anasta, but they won’t even be able to strap their boots on properly if the engine room don’t bulldoze their way through the season. </p><p> The Roosters will bash and barge through the middle, leaving Pearce and Anasta to orchestrate the attack. The outside backs and fullback Anthony Minichiello will see plenty of quality ball… at least, if things go to plan. </p><p> <strong>Keep An Eye On</strong></p> Braith Anasta was the best five-eighth in the NRL last year by as much as you like, but already Fittler has hinted the Blues’ playmaker will step back into the lock forward position this year. </p><p> The man ready to adopt the no.6 jersey is the one to watch – Ben Jones. The flame-headed five-eighth is a terrific young prospect and having played plenty of football with Pearce in the junior grades he should be able to strike up a good combination quickly. Anasta at 13 will provide him with good leadership and direction. </p><p> <strong>They’ll Really Miss</strong></p> The losses of front-rower David Shillington and back-rowers Anthony Tupou and Mickey Paea are profound; it means the remaining forwards must take their games to another level. </p><p> <strong>It’s Time To Stand Up</strong></p> Willie Mason has now had a year to settle in and needs to hit the ground running in 2009. His stats last year were respectable – Big Willie averaged 120 metres per game, managed 19 tackles each week and averaged 64 minutes. But for the Roosters to take the next step this season they can’t afford Mason to merely look pretty on the stats sheet. </p><p> The man mountain needs to be explosive and totally dominate the team like only Mason knows how. He’s done it before at the Bulldogs – now’s the time to reclaim that sort destructive form. </p><p> <strong>Coach Watch</strong></p> Last year’s failed trip to the playoffs was an important lesson for the Roosters’ players, as it was for coach Brad Fittler. As a player and now as a coach Freddy has experienced the disappointment of getting so close yet finishing so far from the ultimate goal. </p><p> Last season he also proved he isn’t afraid to make the tough decisions, demoting Craig Fitzgibbon from the captaincy near the end of the season and handed the reins to Anasta. </p><p> Fittler is still inexperienced as a coach and perhaps that showed at times with the way the Roosters performed last year, but at the same time he has enough shortcuts and street smarts to get him by. Only an unprecedented early losing streak would place his position in jeopardy. </p><p> <strong>They’re All The Better For</strong> The Roosters started 2008 like a house on fire so in that regard the way they surrendered so meekly in last year’s finals series was a major disappointment. </p><p> They need to pace themselves better to ensure they have enough energy to rise for big games in the second half of the year… when results matter most. </p><p> <strong>Predicted Finish</strong></p> Anything short of a top-eight finish will be an unqualified disaster and if the Roosters play anywhere near their potential they should canter in for a play-off finish. </p><p> However, there are a stack of finals-capable teams this year and the Roosters will have to rise to another level to earn a home final, as they did last year. Top four will no doubt be the aim but getting there is another matter. </p><p> Our tip: 8th </p><p> <strong>Under-20s</strong></p> Escaped last year’s Toyota Cup wooden spoon by a solitary competition point, so they’ll be hoping things get a whole lot better. </p><p> They don’t have the depth that many of their competitors have so their fate is largely in the hands of Brad Fittler and how many eligible players he uses in first grade. </p><p> The likes of Jake Friend, Ben Jones, Martin Kennedy, Mose Mosoe and Ryan Williamson make for a strong-looking side, however all of these players are likely to play a great deal of NRL. </p><p> On the plus side, their SG Ball Cup side won last year’s comp and feeder school Matraville Sports High continue to be strong so coach Scott Murray may begin to see the benefits of these achievements. </p><p> <strong>New Breed</strong></p> 18-year-old Kiwi, Mose Mosoe, is a 115-kilogram, 194cm prop. He’s a big bopper, who’s come a long way since wielding a hockey stick as a 13-year-old and now he’s geared himself for his Sydney Roosters NRL debut. Look out Willie’s got a twin brother. </p><p> Keep an eye out for more on Mose Mosoe when NRL.com brings you New Breed profiles in the coming weeks.</p>