Mid-season Report Card: Roosters

SYDNEY ROOSTERS
Mid-season Report Card


Position after 13 rounds:
16th
Wins: 3
Losses: 9
Byes: 1
Points: 12
Differential: -151

After finishing last season with a disappointing double defeat in the finals, the Roosters were not expected to hit the same heights that propelled them into the top four in 2008 – but no-one could have predicted things would turn out this bad!

Talk of player mutinies, unrest and contract dramas are a result of the destabilisation that comes from losing too many games. From the very first outing when the Roosters were whipped by little brother South Sydney 52-12 at their home ground, the Roosters have not shown any promise.

That Round 1 game spelled the end of their season. Since then they have been thrashed on the field too many times, and it has led to nasty rumours off the field about the future of coach and club legend Brad Fittler.

It all came to a head after their Round 11 loss to the Panthers. In one of Fittler’s most questionable moves, Braith Anasta was shifted to fullback against his will, and unsurprisingly he struggled. Senior players were then accused of trying to oust Fittler, but things seem to have settled now. Fittler’s future, however, is reliant upon how the Roosters approach the rest of this season.

Are Things Going To Plan?
Unless Fittler is playing a masterful game and intends his team to make a late, undefeated charge to the finals, this season is nowhere near where the Roosters expected it to be.

After that initial shock from the first game of the year, Fittler’s men recovered enough to defeat the Raiders down in Canberra and it looked like the Souths loss was just first-game jitters. But the next week they conceded 40 points to a red-hot Wests Tigers, and the Roosters have struggled for consistency since.

They have not been able to string two wins together all year and are now embarking on their worst losing streak of the year – four straight after Round 13. Fittler continues to tinker with his side, but nothing seems to be working. After appropriating half the Bulldogs’ forward pack from their 2004 premiership team a couple of years ago, those players are now failing to bend the line like they used to, hindering the Roosters’ ability to play the football they want to. They are making the least metres in the game on average (1150), and are the only team unable to crack the 1200-metre mark each game.

Injury Front…
He’s spent more time in the casualty ward than on the field over the past three years, so it is no surprise Anthony Minichiello is the Roosters’ main casualty this year. Sure, Fittler would love to have him in the side, but the club is almost used to not playing with him. But that begs the question: why have they not been more active in securing a solid back-up fullback? Hooker James Aubusson is another major casualty, now ruled out for the season with a knee injury. Centre Sia Soliola has spent the past month on the sideline as well with a knee injury. There may not be too many injuries, but they are crucial ones.

If Only…
The Roosters had not been towelled up by the Rabbitohs in Round 1. It was a lacklustre performance that ended up defining their season to date. They were uncommitted and lazy, and coach Fittler was at a loss to explain why the year started so poorly. It really gave their fans an indication of the attitude they were going to see this year. Also, they squandered a 16-0 lead against the Warriors in Round 6 to lose by a Stacey Jones field goal in golden-point extra time, and a week later failed to score a point against the Dragons in their traditional ANZAC Day clash. An identical attitude to Round 1 was to blame for those losses.

Who’s Flying… In Minichiello’s absence Sam Perrett has been the Roosters’ attacking force in the outside backs. While players fumble through games around him, Perrett has been consistently outstanding. He has voiced his frustration at watching team-mates make mistakes constantly, but is determined to pull his team one-handed out of the mire. Alarmingly he is averaging the most metres at the Roosters (with 111.6), and is also the most damaging from the back with an average of 26.1 kick-return metres. Perrett is as reliable as they come, averaging less than one error per game, despite being charged with fielding kicks and bombs, and getting his hands on the ball as much as possible. The Roosters need to feed their replacement fullback more often, because he is the most damaging player in attack with eight line breaks.

He has also scored four tries, but can act as a playmaker as well with three try assists and two line break assists.

Needs To Lift…
The Roosters’ pack have been extremely disappointing this season. Half are not playing to their potential, while the other half are working too hard to pick up the slack. Fittler even took the dramatic step of dropping former Kangaroos representative Mark O’Meley earlier this year because he is only averaging 75 metres a game. Willie Mason is averaging less than 90 metres a game. Those players are also failing to wrap up the ball in defence, leading to the Roosters conceding more offloads than any other team (14.5 per game). Once in second-phase play, halfback Mitchell Pearce is targeted; he has missed 41 tackles this season.

Brad Fittler Tells NRL.com… “There has been some good stuff here but overall we’re still struggling. We’ve got to keep improving, we can’t be happy with that, but we scored some good tries against Manly (in Round 13). We’re missing some guys… but a lot of sides are in a similar position. There are some good signs, I think with some of the younger guys who’ve had a couple of games now we really saw a leap of improvement… Benny Jones has improved. Hopefully, because of those young guys, at some stage in the future these times will be worthwhile.”

Predicted Finish…
It is hard to see the Roosters doing anything but battling for the wooden spoon – 14th at best, but likely 16th.

Under-20s… It has been an unhappy year in both grades at the Roosters. Again they are floating around the bottom of the table, and have now lost captain Tom Symonds to first grade. Injuries have affected their halves, and it is reflected in their attack which is the worst in Toyota Cup, scoring just 186 points at the halfway point of the season.