Sydney Roosters: Season Review

Regular Season
WINS: 5
LOSSES: 19
POSITION: 16th (Last place)
HOME RECORD: 2 wins, 10 losses (16th – worst)
AWAY RECORD: 3 wins, 9 losses (=12th)
 
After Finals
Did not qualify
 
BEST WINNING STREAK: 1 (Round 2, 4, 8, 16 and 21)
LONGEST LOSING STREAK: 6 (Rounds 9-15, bye Round 12)
PLAYERS USED: 31
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Craig Fitzgibbon
TRIES SCORED: 67 (15th)
TRIES CONCEDED: 120 (16th)
 
Perhaps the greatest pointer to how the Roosters’ season went was their final game of the year.

The side could have offloaded the wooden spoon with a win over the Cowboys in front of their home fans on a day centered on the farewell of club legend and stalwart Craig Fitzgibbon.

With plenty at stake the Roosters showed they can indeed play football, rushing to a 16-0 lead and seemingly posting the spoon to the Sutherland Shire. But alas, this was the year the Roosters were plucked and cooked and served up as dinner to just about every side in the NRL, and they surrendered the lead against the Cowboys, eventually getting caned 32-16.

It was an unfair end for Fitzgibbon and a harsh way for another club legend, coach Brad Fittler, to finish his coaching career at the Roosters after the board decided to sack him in favour of Brian Smith for next year.

It was an almighty plummet from finals football in 2008 to last place in 2009 but with Smith on the way you can be sure a clean-out is on the cards and better days should be ahead.

The season was also punctuated with off-field dramas and scandal, so the quicker 2009 is over for the tri-colours, the better.

Where They Excelled…
Nowhere. The Roosters were pretty awful in every aspect of their football. Statistically they were one of the poorest, or the poorest, team across all key areas… and then there were the off-field indiscretions and offences as well.

In fact, if they were to ‘excel’ in any area in particular it would be in gaining negative headlines, with countless newspaper column inches devoted to Roosters in deep doo doo (so to speak). We won’t add to the garbage by recounting them all here.

Where They Struggled
… Where didn’t they struggle? The Roosters conceded the most points and tries in the competition to have the worst defence, leaking over 28 points a game. Their attack was ranked 14th, nothing to write home about, and they were the second most ill-disciplined club in terms of penalties conceded.

Among their woeful stats were: 14th in line breaks, 16th in half breaks, 16th in metres gained, 14th in kick metres, made the second-most errors… it goes on and on and on like this.

Missing In Action… Admittedly, injuries did hurt the Roosters – and they were already light-on in depth. Anthony Minichiello broke his ankle early in the season and only played eight games all year, Braith Anasta was also injured in the back half of the year after managed just 14 games, while injury and form also restricted Mark O’Meley to just 11 top grade matches.

Turning Point… The Roosters’ season script could have been garnered from their opening round performance, when they were humbled 52-12 by South Sydney. But some up-and-down form in the following weeks ensured some believed it was just that they were a little rusty.

However, their confidence dipped after two close losses to the Broncos (28-24) and the Warriors (17-16) in Round 5 and Round 6 and then a 29-0 loss to the Dragons compounded the problems.

Sure the side regrouped to beat the Sharks in Round 8 – but a six-game losing streak followed, and the season was gone.

Best Games… The Roosters only had five wins all year, two of which were against the struggling Sharks. But they do deserve some credit for the Round 21 victory over Newcastle.

Just a little over a week prior the news about Brian Smith’s defection from the Knights to the Roosters was announced; it seemed to spur the visiting side to a 30-18 win in Newcastle.

The Knights may have been poor that night, but the Roosters didn’t allow them to get out of the funk and proved they did indeed have the ability to trouble the top sides.

Their 28-4 win over Canberra in Round 2 was their biggest of the year and a pretty gutsy one with several players being injured. Anthony Minichiello even scored a try with a broken ankle!

Worst Games…
The internet would run out of space if we were to list them all but the Roosters’ worst games were no doubt the opening round belting by rivals South Sydney (52-12); the 29-0 loss to the Dragons on ANZAC Day when defence was just almost nonexistent at times; the back-to-back losses to the Knights (38-6) and the Panthers (48-6) mid-season was embarrassing; while the second half against the Cowboys in the final round was almost unforgivable considering they could have done it for Freddie, Fitzy and unloaded the spoon.

Hold Your Head High…
Craig Fitzgibbon is basically a champion. A good all-round knockabout bloke who is living proof you can have a beer, or a few, and still stay out of trouble.

Having been one of the better players of the decade Fitzy deserved more than to go out of the NRL with a wooden spoon but considering he played five grand finals in a six-year stretch at one stage, and also represented state and country countless times, he had a good run.

He finished the year by becoming the Jack Gibson Medal Winner for a record fourth time, a well-deserved accolade.

Coach Brad Fittler Says… Roosters coach Brad Fittler: “I’m glad it (the season) is over now. In a few games I thought we could have dug in a bit harder. It was crap really…

“When you look at ‘Fitzy’, (trainer) Ronnie Palmer, Shane Shackleton and Sia Soliola, they’re all quality human beings, and we came last.

“As a group, they have to stand up and provide a new culture and personality for the club. They are losing a lot of quality. It’s going to be a tough job, but I think Brian Smith is a good man for it. He has been in hard situations before.”

Conclusion… It was a year to forget for the Roosters, who earned just their fifth wooden spoon and their first since 1966.

They dominated the negative newsprint, sacked their coach and let their best player go to England. It may be a cliché but seriously, their only way is up.