Mid-Season Review: Sydney Roosters
Position after 13 rounds: 13th
Competition points: 10
Before a ball was even kicked in 2011 the Roosters were third favourites to win the premiership. Now they face a mighty battle just to figure in finals football come September.
Off-field dramas have stung them badly; two weeks before the start of the season star five-eighth Todd Carney added to his long list of misdemeanours when he failed a breath test the morning after a drinking session. Then in April injured recruit Anthony Watts was charged with assaulting his girlfriend after a night out with Carney – the duo had skipped attending the Roosters’ Round 6 game with the Broncos and opted to party instead. The club suspended Watts indefinitely and ordered Carney to undertake medical tests to determine his mental fitness.
Given the thumbs-up, Carney returned a fortnight later but, as was the case in the early rounds, he has failed to really flatter.
Injuries have also hit them hard, with Sam Perrett, Jason Ryles, Martin Kennedy, Daniel Conn, Tom Symonds, Kane Linnett and Mitchell Aubusson all in the wars.
They started the season upbeat with a thrilling win over the Rabbitohs, before back-to-back losses to the Sea Eagles and Bulldogs forced some reassessment. A 24-6 thrashing of the Wests Tigers seemed to steady the ship – but with just two wins from their past eight games, including a five-loss streak from Round 5, it’s clear coach Brian Smith will require a mini-miracle if his players are to breathe life into their season.
It remains to be seen whether last week’s committed win over the Warriors was merely a flash in the pan.
Are Things Going To Plan? They’re still miles off target, with their predictable attack and shaky defence sharing the blame. Whereas last year the Roosters were a thrilling, potent attacking side, averaging 22.3 points and more than four tries a game (third overall), this year they are rock bottom with just 14.7 points and 2.6 tries scored.
They’re really missing winger Sam Perrett. Last year Perrett led the league for dummy-half runs and was ranked fourth for hit-ups and eighth for running metres. They have missed his relentless involvement. Thankfully he’s back this week.
Injury Front… Coach Smith has had to call on 28 players to date – the eighth most by all teams – which has affected continuity and left them without some strike power. Second-rower Anthony Cherrington was lost in the pre-season, Sam Perrett broke his ankle in Round 3, while centre Kane Linnett and second-rower Mitchell Aubusson each suffered shoulder dislocations during the week of Round 10 and aren’t due back until Round 18.
Now Shaun Kenny-Dowall is out injured too.
If Only… They could do better in the 20 minutes after halftime. For whatever reason, the 10-minute rest isn’t doing the Roosters any good – they’ve conceded 68 points during this crucial period, the third most by any side.
Also, if only Todd Carney could’ve continued the restraint and self-discipline that saw him win the NRL’s most coveted award last year, the Dally M medal.
And while there’s no doubting winger BJ Leilua’s enthusiasm and impact (55 tackle-breaks) his NRL-high 23 errors have hurt. Fullback Anthony Minichiello and Shaun Kenny-Dowall aren’t far behind (17 each) so it’s not hard to see why they’ve had trouble posting points out wide.
Who’s Flying… Not a lot to write home about really. Anthony Minichiello needs just one try to overtake 1970s winger Bill Mullins and become the all-time top Roosters tryscorer; level with Bill Mullins. That’s all there is to get excited about at the moment.
Needs to Lift… Hooker Jake Friend is missing a whopping 3.7 tackles a game; although his 65 tackles against the Warriors would suggest coach Smith has had more than a quiet word with the No.9. (Against the Cowboys in Round 12 the Roosters missed 64 tackles, the most by any side this year.)
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves is missing three tackles a game and averages just 74 metres of territory.
The whole pack needs to lift – only Martin Kennedy and Nate Myles are cracking triple figures in metres gained; consequently the Roosters are making just 1256 metres a game, the third fewest by all sides.
Frank-Paul Nuuausala ranked fifth in the NRL for offloads last year, making 54. At the halfway mark of 2011 he’s ranked 50th with just 10, with Mitchell Pearce and Braith Anasta each making more (12).
Coaching staff comment… Not available.
Predicted Finish… The next six weeks will define the Roosters’ season. They face the unenviable task of taking on the Storm in Melbourne this week (albeit without their Origin stars) before they get a week off with their second bye. Then they have four very winnable games – against the Knights (away), Raiders (home), Panthers (home) and Rabbitohs (away). If they were to drop only the Storm game, that would leave them needing to win five of their remaining seven games to make the finals – not beyond their capabilities given the rampant run they embarked on at the same time last year, when they won seven of their last 10 games.
Unfortunately, putting the win over the Warriors to the side, they haven’t given much of an indication they have the application to repeat that so we’re not holding our breath. We expect them to finish around where they are at the moment.
Under-20s… The junior Roosters sit just three competition points out of the top eight at the halfway stage, in 10th place with four wins, seven losses and a draw. The past month hasn’t been great for them though, with the Warriors and Knights both putting 50 points on them in their wins (the Warriors beat them 42-nil in Round 5, too). Their best performance was a 22-20 win over the third-placed Bulldogs in Round 3. They’ve been best served by props Kane Evans and Isaac Liu. Evans has promoted the football more than any other front-rower in the TC (23 offloads) and has made 21 tackle busts and 126 metres, while Liu has made 23 tackle busts and 96 metres. Lock Lou Goodwin has worked hard in defence; he ranks second overall for average tackles in the TC with 40 a game. Coach Jason Taylor will be focused on getting their huge -99 differential down – it’s a whopping 176 points adrift of the ninth-placed Raiders.