Mid-Season Review: Sydney Roosters

Position after 13 rounds: 9th
Wins: 6
Losses: 6
Byes: 1
Points: 14
Differential: -43


What is the problem with this team? Seriously! The Roosters ran last in 2009 and were a rabble but while this season they are doing much better, they are still an “enigma wrapped in a riddle”.

At the season’s halfway point they are in ninth spot on the NRL ladder but have lost games against the sides currently running 15th, 14th, 13th and 12th. (If Melbourne beat them this weekend, you can add 16th to that list!)

Only some impressive wins against higher-fancied opposition has them in the premiership race. At their best they are a dark horse premiership contender; but at their worst they are… terrible.  

They haven’t won back-to-back games since the opening two rounds and need to find a way to post consistent performance, or they will be just making up the numbers by season’s end.

Are Things Going To Plan? Some weeks the plan is being executed expertly – while others Brian Smith must be wondering what the heck happened.

They opened the season with two good wins, over the Rabbitohs and Wests Tigers – two current top-eight sides – but were then annihilated 60-14 by the Bulldogs, who have won just three games all year.
 
A pattern of win/loss/win/loss followed for a while – not exactly the way you plan a season – and it has become a source of much frustration. The side’s go-forward is poor – they average the second fewest metres gained a match in the NRL; this is forcing them to attack from distance a little too often.

Some things are working – like Todd Carney playing fullback. He might have some errors in his game but he is getting better each week and his combination with Mitchell Pearce and Braith Anasta has been devastating in some matches… just not all of them.

Smith’s penchant to mix up his team a lot doesn’t seem to be working if the inconsistency is anything to go by.

Could it be a situation where the players are not sure if they are playing each week?

Injury Front… The Roosters have had some mixed luck with injuries compared to other teams.

Yes, they started the season with the likes of Jason Ryles and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves missing some matches, and Anthony Cherrington was gone before a ball was kicked in anger. But the only other major problem was the recent injury to Mitchell Pearce.

With Pearce back on the pitch they are close to full strength heading into the back half of the year, and as such are well placed for an assault on the top eight.

If Only… The side could perform on a consistent basis and actually turn up against the sides they are expected to beat.

The Bulldogs pounded them in Round 3 – and they have gone on to win just two other games. The Cowboys crushed them in Round 9… and have also won just twice more; the Knights belted them in Round 10… and have won just three more times. Then last weekend the previously hapless Sharks gave them an absolute hiding.

Only the players themselves know why this is happening. Last year, off-field drama was a catalyst to poor performance… but the negative headlines haven’t been as forthcoming this season (well that was until Jake Friend and Todd Carney were recently implicated in a prescription drug issue. Word is Carney was just in wrong place at wrong time and even Friend claims an innocent explanation will be forthcoming shortly).

Who’s Flying… Halfback Mitchell Pearce is becoming a player of prominence and Todd Carney’s return to the NRL has been pretty good considering he spent a year in the Far North Queensland bush league.

Pearce has 10 line-break assists, nine try assists and five tries from his nine games this season, while Carney is running for 98 metres a game and he has posted eight line-breaks, eight line-break assists, six try assists and seven tries. Back-rower Mitch Aubusson has shown great penetration on the edges with nine line-breaks, and Shaun Kenny-Dowall’s move to the centres has had its positives: he is making 125 metres a game and has eight line-breaks and six tries.

Needs To Lift… There really isn’t a particular Rooster who is playing poorly on a consistent basis… the issue is they are all playing very inconsistently.

The side as a whole needs to be able to back up a good performance, rather than have a blinder followed by a shocker.

Coach Brian Smith Tells NRL.com… “We have had some really positive performances in the first half of the year, as evidenced by our recent win up on the Gold Coast which is pretty encouraging.

“But we have also had some extremely disappointing losses, as evidenced by our home performance just a few days later against the Sharks. Obviously we need to get some consistency in our football in the back half of the year.”

Predicted Finish…
A tough draw will likely see the Roosters miss the finals, although they’ll have a shot at eighth spot. We’ll say somewhere between eighth and 12th.

Under-20s… The junior Roosters are a mid-field team who could be doing even better, having lost one match by four points, another by one point as well as having a 40-40 draw!

The Roosters’ young guns need to learn more about consistent performance, as each time they look like getting on a run they drop a game they could have won. They have beaten a few sides above them, but fallen to those below… much like the first grade side.

They should make the finals though, considering they are running fifth (although a few teams have games in hand).