NRL NEWS

Season review: Sydney Roosters

Wins: 8
Losses: 15
Draws: 1
Position: 13th 
Home Record: 5 wins, 7 losses (=11th)
Away Record: 3 wins, 8 losses, 1 draw (13th) 
 
Longest Winning Streak: 2 (Round 5-6)
Longest Losing Streak: 4 (Rounds 10-14)
Players Used: 28
Tries Scored (after 26 rounds): 82 (10th)
Tries Conceded (after 26 rounds): 110 (15th)

The Roosters started 2012 in the most spectacular fashion possible, stunning eventual top-four finishers South Sydney with two tries in the final two minutes to claim a stunning 24-20 win. Four wins in the first six games gave fans hope of a bright season but they also sandpapered over some of the cracks, such as their leaky defence (an 18-0 loss to the Panthers in Round 2 and a 44-4 loss to the Storm in Round 4 were a dark portent of things to come). That bright start turned out to be as good as it got for the boys from Bondi in 2012 – they won just four more games in their next 18 to drop out of finals reckoning well before the end of the season.

It was a sorry way for coach Brian Smith and club captain Braith Anasta to end their tenures at the tri-colours but 2012 also saw a host of promising youngsters blooded, which should give fans more than a glimmer of hope that happier times await in 2013 and beyond.

It was the Roosters’ second consecutive season out of finals action since making the 2010 decider, and although they seem to be something of a club in transition they certainly can’t blame injury disruptions for their current woes – all their key players played in virtually every game in 2012.

Where They Excelled… The Roosters’ 2012 stats may not make for pretty reading but the outgoing coach has done an excellent job of laying a strong platform for his successor Trent Robinson.

Smith handed debuts to promising young outside backs Tautau Moga, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Daniel Tupou and Adam Henry. Each will be a more dangerous player next year having had a taste of first grade.

Young fringe back-rowers such as Boyd Corner, Tinirau Arona, Brad Takairangi and Lama Tasi developed into regular first graders and should form the nucleus of the Roosters pack in coming years.

And despite still conceding plenty of points, the Roosters were able to keep a clamp on opposition running metres and win the battle of the offloads: they conceded the third-lowest metres of any club at 1328 metres per game, and were the second-most prolific offloaders (12.3 per game) while conceding the second-fewest offloads at 9.6 per game.

Where They Struggled… Almost everywhere else, unfortunately. They gained the least territory of any side at just 1245 metres per game and were the only side where no member of the forward pack averaged more than 100 metres per game. 

This statistic was almost certainly not aided by a serious case of butterfingers: the Roosters had the worst handling of any side throughout 2012, fumbling the ball 11.2 times per game. There was no single major culprit but the senior players weren’t exactly leading by example in this regard: Anthony Minichiello (25), Shaun Kenny-Dowall (24) and Mitchell Pearce (24) coughed up the ball more often than any of their junior colleagues.

This all led to the Roosters conceding more points than any side other than wooden spooners Parramatta. It’s one of the oldest clichés in rugby league – you have to respect the footy, and the first order of business for new coach Robinson in 2013 will be to get those completions up.

Missing In Action… As mentioned above the Roosters can’t really blame injuries for their results. Fullback Anthony Minichiello, hooker Jake Friend, prop Martin Kennedy and utility Mitch Aubusson played every game, and halves Pearce and Anasta only missed two games apiece.

New Zealand centre Kenny-Dowall had a delayed start then missed a month with a back injury mid-season, Frank-Paul Nuuausala was sidelined for five games with a broken jaw, and Tautau Moga was kept out of the side with an ongoing ankle injury until midway through the season.

If anything the man who left the biggest gap seemed to be Queensland forward Nate Myles who joined the Titans in the off-season. His experience and robust defence in the middle of the park was sorely missed.

Turning Point… Psychologically, the major turning point could well have been the side’s Anzac Day heartbreak against the Dragons in Round 8. After a fairly promising start to the season the tri-colours experienced a confidence-shattering 50-12 thrashing at the hands of the Cowboys in Darwin. They badly needed a solid win to get back on track and instead they experienced an almost identical last-gasp defeat to the one they inflicted on Souths in Round 1. Holding a six-point lead the Roosters opted to take a penalty goal five minutes from time to stretch that lead out past a converted try. It proved costly though as the Dragons hit back with a try in the 77th minute leaving the Roosters facing a nervous final two minutes. Ben Creagh’s 80th-minute match-winner almost had an air of inevitability about it and it was this loss that knocked the Roosters out of the top eight – a standing they did not regain again in 2012.

Although they accounted for the out-of-form Knights the week after, they then won just once in their next 10 starts as their season hopes faded away.

Best Games… Frustratingly for fans, the side’s most comprehensive victory came in Round 25 when they were already out of finals reckoning. They blew away the Wests Tigers in a five-tries-to-zip first half, eventually running out 44-20 winners. Tellingly, their 83 per cent completion rate was their best all year and the first time since Round 1 they had completed more than 80 per cent of possessions.

Promising youngster Daniel Tupou notched a hat-trick of tries to sound a warning for next year but much-maligned Origin halfback Mitchell Peace was the architect, setting up three tries and scoring one of his own. It was also the best game of the year from the Roosters props, who tore the Tigers apart up the middle. Waerea-Hargreaves made 157 metres and Kennedy 174 metres as they set a great platform for side’s playmakers. 

Worst Games… The low point was without a doubt the road trip to Darwin in Round 7. Maybe the Cowboys handled the heat better than the tri-colours, or maybe it was just one of those days. Either way, the team was coming off back-to-back wins and would have had high hopes of upsetting the Cowboys at a neutral venue. Instead they missed nearly 40 tackles as the Cowboys sliced through for 10 line-breaks in a nine-tries-to-two victory. Two of those 10 busts came inside the first quarter as the Roosters were swept away before they had  chance to get into the contest.

Pearce experienced what was surely his worst game of the season, with three errors and four missed tackles, and Friend also had a game to forget with two errors and six tackles missed.

Hold Your Head High… Evergreen fullback Anthony Minichiello has experienced something of a renaissance since recovering from a serious back injury. In addition to playing every game (maybe fortuitously given his shot on Raider Josh Dugan in Round 24 for which he was lucky to escape sanction) he scored nine tries and broke 72 tackles and led the territory stats with 135 metres per game. 

And despite having to endure plenty of criticism Pearce was at the heart of every good performance the Roosters turned in. He led the club for try assists with 25 (fifth best in the NRL) and line-break assists with 20 (also fifth best) and – unusually for a halfback – led the try-scoring tally with 10.

Anthony Minichiello says: “What let us down this year was our consistency. While there were glimpses of what we’re capable of through the year, lapses in discipline really hurt us.

“While it was a disappointing year overall for us, with the NRL squad not making the finals, our Under-20s side and Newtown Jets have both had great seasons and there are players from there who will make an impact next year. Guys like Daniel Tupou, Tautau Moga and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck were exciting to play alongside and will be better with another full pre-season. Our young forward pack also grew throughout the season and guys like Boyd Cordner will only continue to grow. 

“We’re all excited to welcome our new coach Trent Robinson, plus there are some new signings like James Maloney, and hopefully Sonny Bill Williams, that we’re all looking forward to working with.”

Conclusion… The Roosters never really kicked into gear in 2012 and seemed to lack a bit of experience and strike-power in the forwards – the likely addition of Sonny Bill Williams will help here. With Anasta moving on Pearce will be joined by former Warrior James Maloney in the halves next year under new coach Robinson. If some of the young, mobile back-rowers and fleet-footed outside backs who were being developed this year kick on in 2013, greener pastures could await.

*Statistics: NRL Stats