If the big games at the end of the year are all about defence, then it is the mighty Roosters who should be the short-priced favourites to lift the NRL premiership trophy on the first Sunday in October.
Don’t be deceived by the perception that the Tricolours’ success has been built solely on their attacking prowess through players like Sonny Bill Williams, Boyd Cordner and the super-quick Michael Jennings. And yes, of course Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney create plenty of opportunities with their direction and play at the line – but that is not why they are competition front-runners. To me it’s their ruthless attitude in defence, to continually keep turning up for one another week after week, which has been most impressive.
So far this season in 19 games, the Roosters have conceded fewer points (215) than any other team. The next best is Manly – renowned for their ruthless and disciplined defence – who have conceded 264 points, followed by South Sydney on 286.
On an incredible five occasions Trent Robinson’s men have been able to keep the opposition team scoreless – and the competition still has five games and a final series to go! Teams to feel their wrath have been the Broncos (8-nil in Round 3); Eels (50-nil in Round 4); Bulldogs (38-nil in Round 6); Dragons (36-nil in Round 17); and Sharks (40-nil in Round 19).
This to me is an incredible achievement given the way attacking teams can quickly convert field position and momentum into points on the scoreboard. If you look at the other top teams so far this season, only Manly (twice), Melbourne and Bulldogs have been able to achieve this at all in 2013.
If we take a look back at the teams that have won premierships most recently, this Roosters squad looks even more formidable. The successes of the Storm in 2007 and the Dragons in 2010 were largely built on a rock-solid defensive foundation. But even those brilliant sides pale in comparison, keeping their opposition to nil on just two occasions each. Since then, Manly kept a clean sheet once on the road to their 2011 premiership, while last season the Storm conceded points in every game they played.
Trent Robinson and his coaching staff have done a great job instilling a tungsten-like defensive attitude into their squad, given that last season they leaked an average of 26 points a game. They have reduced that significantly in 2013 to just 11.3. Defence is all about attitude, you must turn up on every occasion, go out there and want to tackle and work hard for your mate next to you. If you can get your defence right, often your attacking confidence will flow from there.
That is the beauty of where the Sydney Roosters are at, just over a month away from the 2013 finals series. With the confidence they possess from their defensive structures, it is scary to think what they are capable of – given they have a garage full of ‘Ferraris’ ready to open up the throttles.
Faith and belief are powerful traits in rugby league and it is dripping off the boys from Bondi at the moment. If you have a mate who is a Roosters fan, pack your earplugs because those inside the Chook Pen are starting to crow loudly – and they’ve got plenty of reasons to.